You Can Say Anything, You Can Do Anything, But You Can’t Fake A Thought.
A young woman (Jessie Buckley) contemplates breaking up with her new boyfriend, Jake, (Jesse Plemons) while going on a road trip to visit his parents. The ensuing surrealist trip explores loneliness, regret, and a descent into mental illness. Charlie Kaufman’s rendition of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, stays true to the uniquely constructed source material.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a surrealist film. Kaufman incorporates surrealism in many of his films, i.e. Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York. Kaufman’s style has a more fluid and cohesive narrative than surrealist pioneers like, Luis Buñuel (Un Chien Andalou & l’Age d’Or), or Germain Dulac (La Coquille et Le Clergyman). The surrealist components that Kaufman incorporates in I’m Thinking of Ending Things help illustrate concepts that would otherwise be difficult to convey.
The entire story is full of unusual and, at times, jarring imagery that represents the way the mind processes memories and thoughts. Our train of thought is typically cluttered, bouncing back and forth between the present, past, future, and distracted. It is also unreliable and mixes up facts, order of events, and other details that make up the miscellany of thoughts. This concept is amplified throughout the film.
The sequences become even more surreal as the concepts above are further distorted in a manner that replicates a dream world. Not only is the story disjointed and unreliable, but it interweaves characters in new roles and positions. Much the same way you might have a dream about “your house”, however the house is actually foreign. These characters are familiar and help tell the story, however they are false in their identity.
I am not sure how Iain Reid’s version compares to Charlie Kaufman’s. Although, it appears that Kaufman’s rendition holds true to the original. At least from what I have read. Regardless, I’m Thinking of Ending Things tells an interesting story about an individual’s history and grapple with loneliness and mental illness. The individual is Jake, played by Guy Boyd. Although, a younger version of himself, played by Jesse Plemons, is the primary representation that we see of Jake. The roller coaster ride through the brain of the protagonist is visualized through a road trip of two young lovers.
The story slowly leaks more and more information revealing the relationships and history between each character. Information is not left in the rear view mirror either, once something is revealed it comes back again and again. Each memory fragment being added to the saddle bags of Jake’s consciousness.
The disjointed nature of the story and the players reflects the fact that we are viewing the clustered memories and thoughts of someone struggling to hold it together. Nostalgia, what if’s, shameful memories, trauma, all circling around in a jumbled mess of thought. Thoughts coming and going without notice and without continuity. However, all together revealing a story and history in a way that is significantly more memorable than a traditional linear format.
The characters all represent someone real in his life, whether that be Jake, himself, his Mother, Father, or some girl he met at a bar. These characters also represent specific emotions or fragments of his personality. For example, the young woman represents hope. The hope he had for love, belonging, recognition, companionship, fill in the blank. As he works his way through each developing character he is slowly releasing them. Once hope is lost, he becomes lost.
Directed by: Charlie Kaufman
Cinematography: Łukasz Żal
Screenplay by: Charlie Kaufman
Based on the novel “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by: Iain Reid
Editing By: Robert Frazen
Music by: Jay Wadley
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis, and Guy Boyd.
Runtime: 2h 14m
Genre: Drama, Surrealist, Psychological Thriller
Production Companies: Likely Story, Projective Testing Service
Distributed by: Netflix