I'm Thinking of Ending Things (film)

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I'm Thinking of Ending Things
I'm Thinking Of Ending Things poster.jpeg
Official poster
Directed byCharlie Kaufman
Produced by
Screenplay byCharlie Kaufman
Based onI'm Thinking of Ending Things
by Iain Reid
Music byJay Wadley
CinematographyŁukasz Żal[1]
Edited byRobert Frazen
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • September 4, 2020 (2020-09-04) (United States)
Running time
134 minutes
CountryUnited States

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a 2020 American psychological drama film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. The film is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Iain Reid and stars Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis.

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, with most praise directed to Plemons and Buckley's performances, and the film's uniqueness and cinematography.


A young woman contemplates ending her six-week relationship with her boyfriend, Jake, while taking a trip to meet Jake's parents on their farm. During the drive, Jake attempts to recite a poem he read when he was younger, Ode: Intimations of Immortality, and pressures the woman into performing one of her works in the car to pass time. After she recites a morbid poem[a] about coming home, they arrive at the farmhouse. Jake takes the young woman to the barn, where he recounts a story about a maggot-infested pig. Throughout the drive, as well as later scenes in the film, the main narrative is intercut with footage of a janitor working at a high school, including scenes where he sees a musical production rehearsal, and a dance in the school's hallway.

Inside the home, the young woman notices scratches on the basement door. At dinner with Jake's parents, the woman, who is described as having different occupations, tells the story of how she and Jake met at a trivia night, told with narrative inconsistencies. Later, she notices a picture of Jake as a child, but becomes confused after recognizing that child as herself. The young woman receives another call, and a mysterious male voice explains that there is "one question to answer." Jake's parents begin to transition back and forth from their younger selves to elderly dementia patients. When the young woman takes laundry down to the basement, she discovers several identical janitor uniforms in the laundry, and receives another call from the mysterious voice.[3]

On the drive home, Jake mentions several events of the night that the young woman does not remember, including her drinking too much wine; word association soon leads to an extended discussion of John Cassavetes's A Woman Under the Influence.[b] Finding themselves in the middle of a snowstorm, the pair stop at Tulsey Town, an ice cream parlor. They meet employees who are also students at the school the janitor works in. While the young woman buys the dessert, a bruised employee attempts to warn her of something she can't describe. Jake stops at the high school to throw the food cups away. In the parking lot, Jake notices the janitor watching them from inside the school and decides to confront him, leaving the young woman alone in the car. After a long wait, she decides to look for Jake inside the school. She meets the janitor and, among other things, tells him that nothing happened between her and Jake on the night they met.

After the young woman discovers Jake at the end of a hall, they look on as people dressed like themselves engage in a dream ballet,[c] which ends when the janitor's dancer kills Jake's dancer with a knife.

Having finished his shift, the janitor suffers a mental breakdown and begins to hallucinate visions of Jake's parents as well as an animated Tulsey Town jingle. He undresses and walks back inside the school, being led by another hallucination of a maggot-infested pig who tells him that he and his ideas are one and the same, and that he should get dressed.

On an auditorium stage, an old Jake receives a Nobel Prize[d] and sings a song[e] to a full audience of various characters, who gives him a standing ovation. In the final shot, the janitor's truck is covered in snow in the school parking lot. Towards the end of the credits, the sound of an engine turning over is heard.



It was announced in January 2018 that Charlie Kaufman was adapting Iain Reid's novel for Netflix, as well as directing.[8] In December, Brie Larson and Jesse Plemons were cast in the film.[9][10] In March 2019, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis joined the cast, with Buckley replacing Larson.[11]

Principal photography began on March 13, 2019 in Fishkill, New York,[12] and was completed on April 29, 2019. As of November 7, 2019, the film was in post-production.[13][14]


The film was released in select theaters on August 28, 2020,[15] and on Netflix on September 4, 2020.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Jessie Buckley's performance was widely praised by critics.

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 83% of 204 critic reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.59/10. 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."[17] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100 based on reviews from 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[18]

Wendy Ide of The Guardian gave the film four out of five stars, writing "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." She went on to praise Buckley's performance, describing it as "miraculous."[19] In his review, Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the film three and a half out of four 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."[20]

In a more mixed review, Adam Graham of The Detroit News gave the film a "C" grade, praising the performances of both Plemons and Buckley, considering them "excellent", but lamented the film's plot, saying that "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."[21]


  1. ^ The poem comes from Eva H.D.'s collection Rotten Perfect Mouth.[2] A copy of said collection appears in the film.
  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.[2]
  3. ^ Reminiscent of the one 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 the shelf of Jake's childhood bedroom.[2]
  5. ^ The tune is titled "Lonely Room", and is from Oklahoma!.[4]


  1. ^ Oscars: What the Crafts Nominees Are Doing Next
  2. ^ a b c Kohn, Eric (4 September 2020). "Charlie Kaufman's Guide to 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things': The Director Explains Its Mysteries". IndieWire. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  3. ^ Brody, Richard (September 3, 2020). ""I'm Thinking of Ending Things," Reviewed: Charlie Kaufman's Showy Quest for Sympathy". New Yorker. New York. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  4. ^ Brian P. Rubin (September 4, 2020). "The ending of I'm Thinking of Ending Things explained". Looper. Archived from the original on September 4, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d O'Neill, Mae Harrington (11 August 2020). "I'm Thinking of Ending Things release date, cast, synopsis, trailer and more". Netflix Life. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  6. ^ "I'm Thinking of Ending Things review – another superb nightmare courtesy of Charlie Kaufman". The Guardian. August 27, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Rooney, David (August 27, 2020). "I'm Thinking of Ending Things: Film review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  8. ^ "Charlie Kaufman Adapting Novel by Canadian Author Iain Reid for Netflix". The National Post. January 25, 2018. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  9. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (December 3, 2018). "Brie Larson To Star In Charlie Kaufman's Netflix Movie 'I'm Thinking Of Ending Things'". Deadline Hollywood.
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 5, 2018). "Jesse Plemons in Talks to Star in Charlie Kaufman's 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'". Variety.
  11. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 26, 2019). "Toni Collette, Jessie Buckley and David Thewlis Join Charlie Kaufman's Netflix Movie". Variety. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  12. ^ Howland, Jack (March 21, 2019). "Charlie Kaufman movie for Netflix filming in Fishkill, Hudson Valley". Poughkeepsie Journal. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  13. ^ Robinson, Jacob (November 7, 2019). "Netflix Movie 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things': Release Date, Cast, Plot & More". Netflix. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  14. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (November 7, 2019). "Charlie Kaufman's Brain-Bending New Movie Made for a 'Delirious' Shoot, Says Jesse Plemons". IndieWire. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  15. ^ Netflix Review - I'm Thinking of Ending Things (August 2020)
  16. ^ Canfield, David (July 16, 2020). "Exclusive: Charlie Kaufman previews his wild Netflix film I'm Thinking of Ending Things". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  17. ^ "I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  18. ^ "I'm Thinking of Ending Things Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 15, 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. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  20. ^ Tallerico, Brian (September 4, 2020). "I'm Thinking of Ending Things Review: RogerEbert.com". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  21. ^ Graham, Adam (September 3, 2020). "Review: 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' a hopeless glimpse into the void". The Detroit News. Retrieved September 9, 2020.

External links[edit]