Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman and adapted from the novel by Iain Reid, I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (2020, streaming on Netflix) is a surreal existentialist riff that is equal parts intriguing and sluggish.
The film opens with Lucy (Jessie Buckley) driving through snowy farmland with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents. She’s unhappy with him and possibly depressed about the human condition and its lack of meaning and connection; he’s meticulous and reaches out only to trip over his own pedantic nature and insecurities. At his parents’ house, his mother and father (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) strike Lucy as strange, one scene disjointedly leading to the next and becoming increasingly surreal, making her wonder who she is.
There is philosophy here and plenty of it, a point that it is hard for humans to connect and much of their connection is an illusory construct, and another point that the little and big ways we are hurt and fail to connect cost us in many ways–from finding love to realizing our true potential–and by the time we realize it, it’s too late, and the story in which we are the star unravels and ultimately means nothing.
Depressing stuff, though challenging and important as it does in fact define a fundamental in the human condition. I appreciated that aspect, though for all the film’s surrealism and humanity, it never captures the heart of Kaufman’s ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND or the weirdness of his BEING JOHN MALKOVICH or the loneliness of his ADAPTATION. The result often feels like a slog, particularly during the very long driving scenes, making the film feel like a play that might have best been enjoyed more intimately on a stage.
In the end, I liked this cerebral film and really liked what it was trying to do, though it fell short for me in ideas (where’s the hope? what’s the solution?) and in its very slow pacing.