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I’m Thinking of Ending Things Review :- A mind-bending and metaphorical look at a troubled relationship and other facets of life.

Subhadeep Das

In recent years, the creator of bizarre flicks, Charlie Kaufman has been quiet for some time. His last film, Anomalisa, had released back in 2015. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised and ecstatic to learn that he was coming back to making movies and after watching his film today, I can safely say that he has created yet another intriguing, weird and bewildering look into the inner desires and anxieties of people.

Right from the beginning, you are presented with scenes that I prefer to describe as “Kaufmanesque”. We are taken through the interiors of a somewhat old house with a women’s narration playing over it, proclaiming how she wants to end things with Jake(played by Jesse Plemons), her boyfriend of six or seven weeks. We get to know how she is going to meet his parents for the first time, how it is their first long drive and still, she is not at all excited about it. She wanted to say no but, in her opinion, that requires a lot of energy which is why saying yes is easier. These narrations, though not important all the time, are full of anecdotes that carry a lot of metaphorical weight. The surprising thing is that not only do these narrations really help to put us inside the mind of the narrator, Lucy(played by Jesse Buckley) but also help to sow a sense of doubt in us with regards to trusting what is being narrated to us. As the road trip goes on, we start to enter the realm of confusion as inconsistencies start popping up. One minute Lucy says she has no interest in poetry and soon after she recites a beautiful poem that she surprisingly has composed herself. Even Jake is no stranger to such acts who somehow seems to hear her inner monologues in the car, along with us. These scenes are really well crafted and make you doubt yourselves continuously with respect to what you hear or see. The cinematography throughout the road trip is brilliant and really make us feel claustrophobic inside the car alongwith Lucy whose regular banter with Jake starts to get creepier by the minute.

It is when they the reach Jake’s parents’ home, the strangeness reaches new heights. As soon as, we are introduced to Jake’s parents, we know something is terribly afoot. Both of them don’t just seem strange but at times, feel outright scary and horrifying. David Thewlis and Toni Collette are at the top of their game with their performances which really helps to build up the demented and deranged premise inside the house. It is, during the time, when they have to leave does the strangeness reaches its peak as time itself seems to become inconsistent and scenes start to bleed into one another and you absolutely cannot trust what is being shown to you. All throughout this sequence, we also get some scenes of an old janitor working at a school, with Kaufman implying that he is somehow connected to these characters.

On their way back is where director, Charlie Kaufman takes a lot of liberties with respect to the original text and the movie starts to feel as a meta- commentary on all sorts of topics. The dialogue, in this part, is loaded with passages that sound like quotations and some of them even are. We get the best monologue by Lucy, in my opinion, as she gives her detailed critique of John Cassavetes, A woman under the influence and Kaufman even takes a jab at the filmography of Robert Zemeckis. Though, these somehow end up being the weakest portions of the movie, as throughout you either feel confused or annoyed. These scenes are what aid Kaufman uses to pose some dramatic questions to you with regards to life, love and society. The tension and suspense come to a halt and you are left not knowing what to feel.

The suspense however, comes back up when they stop t get ice-cream and Jake suggests that they should visit his school, even though Lucy doesn’t want to. From here on, the movie steps on to its final act and we are presented with an ending that is equally puzzling and beautiful. This is Kaufman’s most daring and experimental work since Being John Malkovich. He has proved that he’s still got it in him to concoct a narrative that is intriguing and bleak at the same time. The movie is beautifully shot and cinematographer, Lukazs Zal, does a commendable job capturing the vulnerabilities and strangeness of each of the characters. The production designers, Molly Hughes and Merissa Lomabardo deserve a lot of praise for being able to bring the Kaufman’s vision to life, especially in the more unnatural scenes. Actress Jesse Buckley does an fantastic job playing Lucy. She is nuanced in her portrayal of the character’s many anxieties and desires and gives a heavily layered performance. Jesse Plemons is earnest in his portrayal as Jake and really helps to add to the strangeness of the narrative with his performance, though he is overshadowed in scenes with David Thewlis and Tonic Collette, who are simply magnificent.

The pacing of the movie is slow and a lot of the scenes in the third act might feel annoying, but despite all these shortcomings, the ending does turn out to be quite surprising and helps to slacken off the built tension. The movie is heavy on metaphors and which people, not used to Kaufman’s films, may find annoying. Overall, Kaufman’s uncompromising originality is always welcome by me but you will need some time to ease up to this one.

Now streaming on Netflix.

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Alternate Take

Alternate Take

A space for reviews, retrospectives, analyses, interviews around all things cinema, standing left of the field.