Film Review: I'm Thinking of Ending Things

This is Charlie Kaufman's best film yet, says Linda Marric


Often regarded as one of the most divisive filmmakers of our time, screenwriter (Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) turned director Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York, Anomalisa) has as many fans as he has detractors in the business, with some calling his films deliberately alienating, needlessly confusing and borderline incomprehensible. 

In his latest film I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, Kaufman is back with what is sure to be his best film yet. Adapted from Iain Reid’s 2016 novel of the same name, the film stars Jessie Buckley (Beast, Wild Rose, Judy), Jesse Plemons (Bridge of Spies, The Irishman) David Thewlis (Harry Potter, Anomalisa), and Toni Collette (Hereditary).

Buckley plays a woman who has found herself in a seemingly reluctant relationship with a nice, but decidedly boring young man (Jesse Plemons) who has invited her to meet his parents (Thewlis and Colette) at their home in the countryside. The trip involves a long, cold and tedious drive along an interminable road in which they exchange a lengthy conversation about life.

Arriving at the house, the young woman soon realises that things aren’t quite what they seem as she’s invited to share a meal with his incessantly bickering parents. Memories of childhood are intertwined with present day in a story which starts off as one thing and winds up being something completely different.

Kaufman’s narratives are often peppered with deeply introspective ideas which can at times feel rather alienating. Whether one is a fan of his particular brand of filmmaking or not, it’s clear that I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the film that cements him as one of the smartest filmmakers of his generations. Showing more maturity and self-awareness than we’ve seen from him before, Kaufman has taken a story which seemed almost unfilmable and made it his own.

Perhaps working within the parameters of someone’s else original material -  Iain Reid in this case - is exactly the kind of incentive Kaufman has always needed to deliver his best work.  Reid’s book is packed full of disjointed existential ideas about life, death and everything in between. It is a story which can at times seem a little claustrophobic, but luckily it never feels jarring.

Buckley delivers a gorgeous performance as ever, and even her not quite there American accent doesn’t take away from her ability to shine throughout. Plemons is utterly brilliant as the quietly exasperated loser in love and life, while both Thewlis and Collette put in two utterly bonkers turns.

Overall, Kaufman fans will be delighted to have him back, while those who didn’t quite get on with his last film Anomalisa will be pleasantly surprised by how much more refined this latest offering is. This truly is a stunning, bleak and very mature piece of filmmaking from one of cinema’s most controversial filmmakers.

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