I'm Thinking of Ending Things

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I'm Thinking of Ending Things
"Promotional release poster": A young woman sits at a dinner table holding a drink. The background features a wallpaper decorated with flowers. Near the top of the poster are three ceiling lamps and the title, "i'm thinking of ending things".
Promotional release poster
Directed byCharlie Kaufman
Screenplay byCharlie Kaufman
Based onI'm Thinking of Ending Things
by Iain Reid
Produced by
  • Anthony Bregman
  • Charlie Kaufman
  • Robert Salerno
  • Stefanie Azpiazu
Starring
CinematographyŁukasz Żal
Edited byRobert Frazen
Music byJay Wadley
Production
companies
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • September 4, 2020 (2020-09-04)
Running time
134 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a 2020 American psychological thriller film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. It is an adaptation of the 2016 novel of the same name by Iain Reid. The plot follows a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who goes on a trip with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis). Throughout the film, the main narrative is intercut with footage of a janitor (Guy Boyd) going to work, with both stories intersecting by the third act.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things was released in select theaters on August 28, 2020, and on Netflix on September 4, 2020. It received positive reviews from critics, who praised the two lead performances and the cinematography.

Plot[edit]

A young woman contemplates ending her approximately seven-week relationship with her boyfriend Jake, while on a trip to meet his parents at their farm. During the drive, Jake attempts to recite a poem he read when he was younger, Ode: Intimations of Immortality, and pressures the young woman into reciting one of her poems to pass time. After she recites a morbid poem about coming home[a], they arrive at the farmhouse owned by Jake's parents. Jake takes her to the barn, where he recounts a story about how the farm's pigs died after being eaten alive by maggots. Throughout the film, the main narrative is intercut with footage of an elderly janitor working at a high school, including scenes in which he sees students rehearsing Oklahoma! and watches a romantic comedy film.

Upon entering the farmhouse, the young woman notices scratches on the door leading to the basement. At dinner with Jake's parents, she (whose occupation and name change throughout) shows them photographs of her landscape paintings and explains how she met Jake at a trivia night in a bar, with narrative inconsistencies. Later, she notices a picture of Jake as a child, but becomes confused after initially recognizing the child as herself. She receives a call from a friend with a female name, and a mysterious male voice explains that there is "one question to answer". Over the course of the night, Jake's parents transform into their younger and older selves, though nobody on screen comments on this. When the young woman takes a nightgown down to the basement to wash, she discovers several janitor uniforms in the washing machine and finds posters for Ralph Albert Blakelock exhibitions that have images of paintings seemingly identical to her own. She also receives another call from the same mysterious voice.

On the drive home, Jake refers to several events that evening which the young woman does not remember and then claims she drank a lot of wine. Word association leads to an extended critical discussion of John Cassavetes's A Woman Under the Influence.[b] Even though snow is falling, the couple stops at Tulsey Town, a drive-through ice cream stand, whose employees are students at the janitor's school. When the young woman is leaving, an employee with a rash says they are scared for her.

Jake and the young woman cannot finish their sugary desserts, so he stops at his high school to throw the ice-cream cups away. After a heated argument in the parking lot about the lyrics of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", they share a kiss. Suddenly, Jake notices the janitor watching them from inside the school and decides to confront him, leaving the young woman alone in the car. Eventually, she decides to look for Jake inside the school. She meets the janitor and asks him where Jake is, but she cannot remember what Jake looks like. She tells the janitor that nothing happened between Jake and her on the night they met, instead claiming Jake made her uncomfortable by staring at her.

The young woman discovers Jake at the end of a hall. They watch as people dressed like themselves and the janitor engage in a ballet,[c] which ends when the janitor's dancer kills Jake's dancer with a knife.

Having finished his shift, the janitor enters his car, but does not start the motor. He experiences hallucinations of Jake's parents arguing and animated Tulsey Town commercials. The janitor then takes off his clothes and walks back inside the school, led by the hallucination of a maggot-infested pig who tells him that "someone has to be the pig infested with maggots", that "everything is the same, when you look close enough", and that he should get dressed.

On an auditorium stage, an old Jake receives a Nobel Prize[d] and sings a song from Oklahoma![e] to an audience of people from his life, all of them in theatrical old-age makeup, who give him a standing ovation when he is done.

In the final shot, the janitor's truck is nowhere to be seen, and the couple's car is covered in snow in the school parking lot. Towards the end of the credits, scraping sounds and the sound of a car engine approaching are heard.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

It was announced in January 2018 that Charlie Kaufman was adapting Iain Reid's novel for Netflix, as well as directing.[6] In December, Brie Larson and Jesse Plemons were cast in the film.[7][8] In March 2019, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis joined the cast, with Buckley replacing Larson.[9]

Principal photography began on March 13, 2019, in Fishkill, New York,[10] and was completed on April 29. As of November 7, the film was in post-production.[11][12]

Release[edit]

The film was released in select theaters on August 28, 2020,[13] and on Netflix on September 4.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 82% of 261 critic reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.50/10; the critics' consensus for the film reads: "Aided by stellar performances from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, I'm Thinking of Ending Things finds writer-director Charlie Kaufman grappling with the human condition as only he can."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100 based on reviews from 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[16]

Karen Han of Polygon wrote: "The lack of clear answers and structure can be frustrating, but the strange way the story is told enhances just how real the exchanges between characters feel. The frustration that Lucy feels with Jake, that Jake feels with his mother, that his parents feel for each other, are all uncomfortably tangible, especially as tensions rise. The film's 134-minute runtime is a long time to sit with that feeling, but Kaufman’s big divergence from the novel he's adapting is in lending its ending a more buoyant note."[17] In his review, Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the film 312 out of 4 stars, calling it "a movie that is undeniably complex in terms of symbolism and a more surreal final act than most people will be expecting". He also praised the cinematography, saying that the film's atmosphere is "amplified by a tight 4:3 aspect ratio courtesy of Łukasz Żal (Cold War) that forces the viewer to pay more attention to what's in frame."[18] The Observer's Wendy Ide wrote: "This is not cinema that leaves you feeling good about things. Nor does it tread a familiar path. But I'm Thinking of Ending Things is one of the most daringly unexpected films of the year, a sinewy, unsettling psychological horror, saturated with a squirming dream logic that tips over into the domain of nightmares."[19]

In a more mixed review, Adam Graham of The Detroit News gave the film a C, calling Plemons's and Buckley's performances excellent, but lamenting the plot, writing: "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."[20] For TIME, Stephanie Zacharek wrote: "For every moment of raw, affecting insight there are zillions of milliseconds of Kaufman's proving what a tortured smartie he is. I'm Thinking of Ending Things must have been arduous to make, and it's excruciatingly tedious to watch."[21]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Art Directors Guild Awards April 10, 2021 Excellence in Production Design for a Contemporary Film Molly Hughes Nominated [22]
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards December 13, 2020 Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won [23]
Best Editing Robert Frazen Won
Chicago Film Critics Association December 21, 2020 Best Actress Jessie Buckley Nominated [24]
Best Supporting Actress Toni Collette Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Nominated
Best Art Direction Molly Hughes Nominated
Best Use of Visual Effects Nominated
Best Editing Robert Frazen Won
Dublin Film Critics Circle December 18, 2020 Best Actress Jessie Buckley Won [25]
Florida Film Critics Circle December 21, 2020 Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won [26]
Gotham Independent Film Awards January 11, 2021 Best Actress Jessie Buckley Nominated [27]
Best Actor Jesse Plemons Nominated
IndieWire Critics Poll December 14, 2020 Best Film I'm Thinking of Ending Things 5th place [28]
Best Director Charlie Kaufman 7th place
Best Performance Jessie Buckley 6th place
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won
Best Cinematography Łukasz Żal 6th place
London Film Critics' Circle February 7, 2021 Film of the Year I'm Thinking of Ending Things Nominated [29]
British/Irish Actress of the Year Jessie Buckley Nominated
Screenwriter of the Year Charlie Kaufman Nominated
National Society of Film Critics January 9, 2020 Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman 3rd place [30]
Online Film Critics Society January 25, 2021 Best Picture I'm Thinking of Ending Things 8th Place [31]
[32]
Best Actress Jessie Buckley Nominated
Best Adapated Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society January 11, 2021 Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Nominated [33]
Best Production Design Molly Hughes Nominated
San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle January 18, 2021 Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Nominated [34]
Best Best Supporting Actress Toni Collette Nominated
Set Decorators Society of America March 31, 2021 Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Contemporary Feature Film Mattie Siegal and Molly Hughes Nominated [35]
St. Louis Film Critics Association January 17, 2021 Best Picture I'm Thinking of Ending Things Nominated [36]
Best Actress Jessie Buckley Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Won
Best Editing Robert Frazen Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association February 8, 2021 Best Adapted Screenplay Charlie Kaufman Nominated [37]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Which is later revealed to be "Bonedog", by the poet Eva H.D.
  2. ^ The young woman's monologue is taken directly from Pauline Kael's review of the film. A collection of her reviews (For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies) can be seen in Jake's childhood home.[1]
  3. ^ Reminiscent of "Dream Ballet" performed in Oklahoma!. The ballet features the young woman's dancer taking the role of Laurey, Jake's dancer taking the role of Curly, and the janitor's dancer taking the role of Jud.
  4. ^ The Nobel Prize acceptance speech is taken from John Nash's acceptance speech during the finale of A Beautiful Mind, the DVD of which is seen on a shelf in Jake's childhood bedroom.[1]
  5. ^ The tune is "Lonely Room".[2]
  6. ^ a b In the high school stage production of Oklahoma! whose rehearsal the janitor watches.
  7. ^ Seen in a brief sequence with the janitor at the high school that, based on the students' clothing and hairstyles, appears to be set in the 1980s.
  8. ^ a b c d In the romantic comedy film the janitor watches.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kohn, Eric (September 4, 2020). "Charlie Kaufman's Guide to 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things': The Director Explains Its Mysteries". IndieWire. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  2. ^ Rubin, Brian P. (September 4, 2020). "The ending of I'm Thinking of Ending Things explained". Looper. Archived from the original on September 4, 2020. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d O'Neill, Mae Harrington (August 11, 2020). "I'm Thinking of Ending Things release date, cast, synopsis, trailer and more". Netflix Life. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  4. ^ "I'm Thinking of Ending Things review – another superb nightmare courtesy of Charlie Kaufman". The Guardian. August 27, 2020. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  5. ^ Rooney, David (August 27, 2020). "I'm Thinking of Ending Things: Film review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 30, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  6. ^ "Charlie Kaufman Adapting Novel by Canadian Author Iain Reid for Netflix". The National Post. January 25, 2018. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (December 3, 2018). "Brie Larson To Star In Charlie Kaufman's Netflix Movie 'I'm Thinking Of Ending Things'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 5, 2018). "Jesse Plemons in Talks to Star in Charlie Kaufman's 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'". Variety. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  9. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 26, 2019). "Toni Collette, Jessie Buckley and David Thewlis Join Charlie Kaufman's Netflix Movie". Variety. Archived from the original on January 8, 2020. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  10. ^ Howland, Jack (March 21, 2019). "Charlie Kaufman movie for Netflix filming in Fishkill, Hudson Valley". Poughkeepsie Journal. Archived from the original on March 22, 2019. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  11. ^ Robinson, Jacob (November 7, 2019). "Netflix Movie 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things': Release Date, Cast, Plot & More". Netflix. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  12. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (November 7, 2019). "Charlie Kaufman's Brain-Bending New Movie Made for a 'Delirious' Shoot, Says Jesse Plemons". IndieWire. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
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  14. ^ Canfield, David (July 16, 2020). "Exclusive: Charlie Kaufman previews his wild Netflix film I'm Thinking of Ending Things". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  15. ^ "I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  16. ^ "I'm Thinking of Ending Things Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on September 10, 2020. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  17. ^ Han, Karen (September 4, 2020). "Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things uses surrealism to feel painfully real". Polygon. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  18. ^ Tallerico, Brian (September 4, 2020). "I'm Thinking of Ending Things Review: RogerEbert.com". RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  19. ^ Ide, Wendy (September 5, 2020). "I'm Thinking of Ending Things review – one of the most daringly unexpected films of the year". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  20. ^ Graham, Adam (September 3, 2020). "Review: 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' a hopeless glimpse into the void". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  21. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (September 3, 2020). "'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' May Be Based on a Novel, But It's All About Charlie Kaufman". Time. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  22. ^ "2021 ADG AWARDS NOMINEES". Art Directors Guild. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
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External links[edit]