I’m Thinking of Ending Things- Directed by Charlie Kaufman; Starring Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis, Guy Boyd, and Abby Quinn; runtime 2hrs and 14mins
8.9 out of 10
I’m Thinking of Ending Things plays like a melatonin induced stress nightmare. The first twenty mins of the film are an effective slow burn. Jake, a young man played by Jesse Plemons, and his newish girlfriend whose name changes a few times throughout this movie, played by Jessie Buckley are driving through an intense blizzard on a desolate road, on their way to visit his parents on their farm. It is made clear through the young woman’s internal monologue (which Jake may or may not be able to hear) that she intends on dumping after this trip. The scene drags on for a while, involving some insightful banter, and even some poetry, thus setting up the rest of the picture.
Things escalate from arthouse rom/dram to psychological horror once the couple arrives at the farm. The Young Woman is immediately paraded through the blizzard into the family’s barn, where she witnesses dead lambs that have been frozen solid, and a curious black spot on the ground. Jake explains to her that the black spot was the result of a team of infected pigs who were eaten alive from the inside out, through their undercarriages by maggots. He then takes her inside to meet his mother and father played by Toni Collette and David Thewlis.
From here, the movie feels a lot like Daren Aronofsky’s 2017 horror movie ‘Mother!’. At points It almost feels like Kaufman comes close to stepping on Aronofsky’s toes. During the visit it becomes established that things like physics and logic can be thrown out the window as the nightmarescape begins to build. Themes of hopelessness, death, and mental illness are portrayed in the weirdest ways imaginable. It is almost futile to try and explain what The Young Woman experiences in the farmhouse do to the bazar setting and mood. It is something that needs to be seen to understood.
The Young Woman says many times that she must be taken home, back to the city. Her life seems to be in ambiguous danger. The dark blizzard which engulfs the entire picture, and her resulting own hazy lack of control over herself is counterbalanced by more witty and offbeat banter between the couple as they finally get back on the road.
The couple stops for ice cream at an outdoor pull-up dairy bar (yes during the middle of a freezing blizzard in the middle of the night) and has another strange encounter with the three women working there. Neither of them eat much of their frozen treat and Jake starts to geek about the snack melting onto the cup holder. He pulls off the main road, down a long dirt outlet, insisting all the while that his old high school is at the end of the road, and they can dispose of their ice creams there in an environmentally friendly way. The young woman protests all the while, insisting that things did not feel right, and that she felt unsafe.
After arriving at the curiously located high school, the couple ends up having a debate about the lyrics of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, which is a perfect allusion for how The Young Woman’s ark in this picture transpires. This all leads into the final twenty mins of the flick, which again, while tying everything together in an imaginative way, must simply be seen to be understood.
I’m thinking of Ending Things is terrifying at points. It’s the kind of movie that will build anticipation in a way where the viewer spends ten mins expecting a jump scare at any moment, leaving you uneasy and untrusting of the world being presented. It’s a movie that is like getting a tattoo. Your invested in the experience, even though you may have to grit your teeth through much of it; because in the end, the experience is not supposed to be ‘enjoyable’, it’s meant to poke you, and stab at you, and make you bleed a little bit, and change you.
Kudos to the cast for bringing such an inherently dry storyline to life. Jessie Buckley shows a vulnerability as The Young Woman which is the glue that makes this movie work; Jesse Plemons is establishing himself as one of the best antagonists you can get; and Toni Collette belongs in the horror movie hall of fame.
I applaud Netflix for finally airing a good horror movie.