“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” Obfuscates Remote Audiences Everywhere

Written By: Kristina Norgard

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” premiered on Netflix on Sept. 4 2020. The film is rated R and runs for 2 hours and fourteen minutes. It is based on the book with the same title written by Iain Reid. The psychological-thriller stars Jesse Plemons –known for “Black Mirror,” “Breaking Bad”– as Jake and Jessie Buckley –known for “Wild Rose,” “Beast”– as Young Woman, along with Toni Collette –known for “Knives Out,” “Hereditary”–as Mother, and David Thewlis –known for multiple “Harry Potter” films, “Big Mouth”– as Father. The film was both written and directed by Charlie Kaufman –known for “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” According to IMDB the logline for the film is “full of misgivings, a young woman travels with her new boyfriend to his parents’ secluded farm. Upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him, and herself.” 

However, that description of the film is merely the tip of the iceberg, and some might say that it would not really captivate the true experience of the two-hours they just spent. The film is the opposite of textbook, but the definition of enigmatic, obscure and ambiguous. Kaufman explained in an IndieWire interview what might actually be a better description to really let an audience know what they are getting into, “This movie is dealing with somebody’s experience of absorbing things that they see and how they become part of his psyche.” Additionally, in the same interview, he said that he is open to all interpretations of what the film’s intent, “I’m not really big on explaining what things are,” the writer-director said in a phone interview. “I let people have their experiences, so I don’t really have expectations about what people are going to think. I really do support anybody’s interpretation.” 

Various critics have given their thoughts about “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” on Rotten Tomatoes currently sitting with a score of 83%, most of them are positive, for example, one from Luke Buckmaster praises, “It’s not the explosions of batshit craziness that most enthrall but the events leading up to them, when you can sense the walls of logic are going to collapse in on themselves but you can’t quite see the fold marks,” and from Sonny Bunch, “Your ability to enjoy or appreciate this will be directly related to just how willing you are to roll with intentional disorientation and obfuscation.” However, not all critics felt the same way, Adam Graham stated, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is an unsolvable riddle where the only answer is mankind’s hopelessness, and we’ve been down this road before,” and Dennis Harvey felt as though Kaufman’s creativity had been completely spent on his previous works, “…there were already signs that his particular bag of tricks might wear out its welcome, and his features so far as writer-director have confirmed that hunch…”

Midway through the film, the Young Woman observes, “People like to think of themselves as points moving through time. But I think it is probably the opposite. We’re stationary, and time passes through us, blowing like cold wind stealing our heat leaving us chapped and frozen, and I don’t know, dead. I feel like I was that wind tonight.” This point, of many made throughout the film, was the one that elucidated aid in solving the riddles twisted and strategically placed by Kaufman. 

Like most story structures where the plot starts to become concrete and come together by the end, the audience for “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” most likely will just become more confused — especially if they have not read the book. If you read the book (or even a sinful quick online summary of the book’s ending), it will probably help you make much more sense of what just happened before you. However, as Kaufman said, he intends for it to still be up to your own interpretation in the end. Undoubtedly, the film is still very creepy, frustrating and even mentally taxing at times, but somehow very much intriguing and thought-provoking enough to make it fruitful and worth it the watch. Unquestionably, the film is well crafted and truly a treat for the mind. It is highly recommended that if you watch this, watch it with a friend or few as it makes great conversation if you enjoy conversing about all things psychological, meta and semiotics.

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