Pros: new surreal script from Charlie Kaufman; actors Toni Collette and David Thewlis, who manage to create an unsettling atmosphere; hints at the essence of what is happening, which are then interesting to put together into one whole Cons: the picture is in no hurry and gradually confuses “I’m thinking of ending it all” / I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Genre Drama, Thriller
Directed by Charlie Kaufman
Starring Jesse Plemons (Jake), Jessie Buckley (Jake’s girlfriend), Toni Collette (mother), David Thewlis (father), Ryan Steele (Dancing Jack), Oliver Platt (voice of the caller), etc.
Studios Likely Story, Projective Testing Service
Year of release 2020
From the moment you find “I’m Thinking of Ending It All” on Netflix, you won’t be able to relax and unwind as usual. Unlike other projects made with the support of Netflix, the new film by Charlie Kaufman will leave the viewer feeling confused.
The film shows a girl, Lucy (Jessie Buckley), getting into a car with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons). She goes to meet his parents, thinking along the way that it’s worth ending all this. Her thoughts are interrupted by gloomy snowy landscapes and philosophical dialogues about life. When the couple arrives at the farm, the heroine notices strangeness in the environment and in the behavior of Jake’s parents. The girl feels that something is wrong here, but she can’t go back.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Ian Reid, which Charlie Kaufman adapted to his cinematic style. All the scripts that Kaufman ever created went beyond the usual boundaries of Hollywood cinema. Moreover, they became the basis of the most wondrous, melancholy and mysterious cinema, not subject to generally established frameworks.
Charlie Kaufman’s cinematic journey began with the film Being John Malkovich, where the actor’s body could be entered through a small door located in a low-ceilinged office. Then there was the film Adaptation, in which Kaufman decided to show the creative torment in creating a film adaptation of the book by placing himself in the film in the guise of Nicolas Cage. Then came the popular film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which the hero wanders through consciousness, resisting the destruction of love memories.
Having secured his fame as a non-profit and almost arthouse screenwriter, whose films starred famous actors, Charlie Kaufman eventually moved into the director’s chair. This is how the film “New York, New York” (Synecdoche, New York) appeared, about a theater director who blurs the boundaries between reality and his play. And also the animated drama Anomalisa, which tells the story of a man who sees all people as the same person with the same voice.
Actually, it’s worth listing all of Charlie Kaufman’s iconic films, if only to understand how unconventionally he does his work. In I’m Thinking of Ending It All, Kaufman does not deviate from his established concepts, building a disturbing and extremely specific story. The director tests the viewer’s patience, painfully exhausting those who are not used to such films. For those who are ready for an unconventional plot, Kaufman step by step reveals the dreary story carefully hidden in the seemingly ordinary plot of meeting the parents.
To discuss the full scope of I’m Thinking of Ending It All would require a separate article, piece by piece, piecing together each scene into a coherent picture. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this without spoilers. But one thing can be said – in order to guess what the film entails as the plot unfolds, you need to pay attention to the details. Look at the clothes, peer into the rooms, listen to the words of the musical playing in the tape.
However, there is one catch. Recognizing the hints hidden by Charlie Kaufman is much easier for viewers from the English-speaking audience. They are more likely to know the plot of the musical Oklahoma! and quickly catch the names of books flashing in the frame.
Based on this, we can say that Kaufman really likes to leave mysteries in his films, but does not consider it necessary to make them universal for everyone. Because of this, I’m Thinking of Ending It All jumps from conversational road drama to thriller, and then completely veers into surrealism. It is not always possible to understand what is happening at the moment of action. Probably, many will have the question “what is this anyway?”, accompanied by a desire to turn off the film.
But for fans of Charlie Kaufman’s previous films, his new film will certainly be incredibly moving with its sad premise. The state of anxiety inherent in some scenes helps to immerse yourself in the story. It is supported by the sharp performances of Toni Collette and David Thewlis, thanks to which it is sometimes uncomfortable to look into the frame. The intricacy of the plot awakens a desire to understand the true essence of what is happening, and the ending will repeatedly scroll through your head – after all, everything surreal was in fact a reflection of one universal human problem.
By the way, the ending itself can confuse even more, and even anger someone. But if you try to analyze what you see, the picture will emerge even without understanding the context of the clues taken from popular culture. And having watched the film again (this, of course, is not playing with Nolan’s laws of physics, but it’s also interesting), the viewer will immediately pay attention to the hints – what seemed strange is a direct answer to the questions that arise. (For those who are really interested, you can find an explanation of the film with commentary from the director on IndieWire.)
If the film “I’m Thinking of Ending It All” had hit the cinemas, 3-4 fans of strange cinema would have sat at the screenings. The picture may seem completely absurd, but for fans of Charlie Kaufman it is a real gift, which contains a big sad story of a little man.