I'm Thinking of Ending Things (4 stars)

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Charlie Kaufman delivers a discomforting and darkly funny relationship drama

The failing relationship movie gets a freaky makeover in this darkly comic, typically confounding drama from writer-director Charlie Kaufman, based on the novel by Iain Reid. Loquacious and philosophical, it reflects on the excruciating process of meeting the parents and the all-consuming nature of romantic relationships themselves, as we enter the head of a young woman of no fixed identity on a wintery road trip through rural Oklahoma with her new boyfriend, with relations turning as chilly as the snow which threatens to engulf them.

Jessie Buckley is the woman in question, heading to see the folks of Jesse Plemons' Jake, masterfully and slightly monstrously embodied by Toni Collette and David Thewlis. The couple's journey is torturous enough, their lengthy dialogues can be strained and competitive and we hear our protagonist's thoughts of ending things whilst witnessing her escalating irritation. And yet it's Jake who is ultimately laid bare when we poke around his family farm, cringe at his embarrassing parents, meet women from his past and visit his high school. As he projects himself onto his partner, she loses any sense of self – and time – and we're placed in her increasingly bewildered shoes.

If Kaufman wants you to squirm, bags of surreal humour keep things equally enjoyable. There's a hilariously awful dinner scene, while horror conventions rear their heads – a creepy basement, a voyeuristic janitor, sinister farmyard stories – but as quickly as an idea is introduced it is abandoned, or left tantalisingly unexplained, often leaving us adrift. Yet it's so meticulously made, intriguing and open to interpretation it almost doesn't matter; the performances are sublime too, and, while Kaufman revels in some recognisable discomfort over a fairly epic runtime, there's plenty to chew on intellectually as conversations veer from musical theatre and art to the movies of John Cassavetes. It's a film that's smart enough to make you want to keep up, but wild enough to lose you.

Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 4 Sep.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 2h 14min
  • Directed by: Charlie Kaufman
  • Cast: Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, Jesse Plemons

A young woman embarks on a trip to her new boyfriend's family farm, despite her reservations over their relationship, leading to troubling questions about herself and the world around them.