Film Review: I'm Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)

If, after watching Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, you don't say to yourself, "What the fuck did I just watch!?" Then did you even really watch Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things? It's like that adage, "If you remember the 1960's, you weren't really there." Because, no matter how intelligent you may well be, no matter how attuned with cinema you may happen to be, no matter your veracity with metaphor and symbolism, you will still come out of watching Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, saying to yourself, "What the fuck did I just watch!?" And this is not a bad thing. The film is gleefully surreal - if that word even is capable of describing such a film.

Surreal is too generic of a term to describe the oeuvre of Charlie Kaufman. No, to describe the films of Mr. Kauffman, one needs a new, as of yet undiscovered word. Perhaps in order to properly describe (yet never explain, since one cannot easily do such a thing in such a case) the worlds of Charlie Kaufman, one needs words created by the auteur himself. But I wouldn't ask the guy anytime soon. For now, let's just go with the flow and see where it leads us. In other words, let's be as daring in our viewership as Mr. Kaufman is in his filmmaking - his world creating. Don't worry, it's not that scary. You will still come out of it saying, "What the fuck did I just watch!?"

Now, to discuss and dissect Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, in any significant way whatsoever, is probably equally as difficult as finding a term to describe the film and/or the auteur himself. The basic story is about a young couple on their way to visit the young man's family, all the while the young woman thinking to herself of ending things. The young man, Jake, is played by Jesse Plemons and the young woman, whose name changes from Lucy to Louisa to Lucia (it's simply Young Woman in the credits) is played by Jessie Buckley. Both Buckley & Plemons do a phenomenal job as these two simplistic yet oh so complicated characters. The first of the three acts takes place as the young couple are traveling to Jake's parents' farm. The second act is set at said farm, and the third act is the young couple traveling back home, or wherever they may actually be traveling. 

The film starts out somewhat conventionally but by the time we hit the farmhouse, occupied by Toni Collette & David Thewlis as Jake's aforementioned parents (and by the way, these two venerable actors steal the show during this second act) any and all conventionality flies out the figurative window. Time suddenly means nothing. Reality suddenly means nothing. We watch as Jake's parents go from middle age to old age back to middle age and into the great beyond and back. By the time we get to the third act, all reality has gone out that same figurative window. To make any attempt at explaining this third and final act, will spoil a lot of the story, so I am not going to make that attempt. And to be fair, I am not sure I could explain it anyway. I mean after all, I am still saying to myself, "What the fuck did I just watch!?"

None of this beautiful, dizzying craziness in the narrative should come as any surprise to anyone familiar with the career of Mr. Charlie Kaufman though. Kaufman wrote both Being John Malkovich (a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination) & Adaptation (a film for which he and his make believe brother were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay) for director Spike Jonze and both Human Nature & Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (for which he won the Oscar, but not with his make-believe brother) for director Michel Gondry, before taking up the writer/director mantle himself for Synecdoche, New York in 2008. And if anyone thought Kaufman went around the proverbial batshitcrazy bend with his directorial debut (a film this critic named the Best Film of 2008), well they ain't seen nothin' yet. Seriously, when it comes to Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, one is destined to say, "What the fuck did I just watch!?"

And then there is that finale. You could make a 1001 guesses at how the final 15 minutes of this film play out, and I guarantee that none of those guesses will even come close to what actually happens in those final fifteen glorious minutes of Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things. A brilliant tour de force of a film (another lame term that comes nowhere close to actually describing how I felt about this film) Kaufman has created the greatest beast of his twenty one year cinematic career, and still I scream to myself, and any windmills that may be near by, "What the fuck did I just watch!?"


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