Review: I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Mild spoiler alert for this review, so go watch this movie first, it’s amazing.

Charlie Kaufman released another nihilistic and abstract movie about life, regret, and characters that are extensions of Kaufman himself, and I am reminded why I always put him on a pedestal. Kaufman has talked about why he thinks movies are dead, and with each new release he’s had, he simultaneously proves and disproves the point, like he’s the Schröedinger of writers and directors.

In his latest effort to make us feel sad about being alive, he’s written a story about a woman trying to end her relationship with her boyfriend, but it’s more than that, because why wouldn’t it be? It’s an existential crisis told through a simple premise, where the progression of the plot isn’t the focus so much as all the little details that make no sense.

The main character of this movie, Jake, is the younger version of the old janitor character that is shown throughout the movie, and the main story we see is in the janitor’s mind as he thinks about ending his own life. Every character in the story voices each thought, struggle, fear, and regret that the janitor has. The woman, played by Jessie Buckley, is an extension of the janitor’s thoughts and how his life could have been instead of what it is now, where he is alone and miserable as an old man. His parents are a manifestation of his fear of death and aging. His younger self is a vehicle to feel like he has agency in his life and that he is able to take action for himself.

The conversations all sound like it’s one person talking to themselves, which becomes increasingly clear as the story goes on. For example, the woman’s backstory changes throughout the movie as the janitor tries out different fun backstories for the fantasy of how his life could have ended up. Or perhaps he is fantasizing about the different ideal women he could have ended up with, so he doesn’t die alone. As the story continues, we see that the janitor’s internal thoughts are starting to become much more clear: he accepts his existential anguish and accepts in his head that he has to end his life.

It’s a story about the fears we all have to different degrees, and despite realizing that a bit over halfway in, I still had a hard time articulating why this movie was so discomforting or what those fears were until after the credits rolled. It’s freeform on the first watch, but by the second and third the whole puzzle comes together; although, that doesn’t mean you have to watch this multiple times to get it or enjoy it.

All of this shouldn’t work honestly. There’s no structure, it follows the gimmick of “oh it’s in this man’s mind,” and it’s abstract to the point of confusion a lot of the time. Yet Kaufman has got me eating out of the palm of his hand. I loved every second of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, but I need to stop obsessing over this. Come on, Kaufman, I still have work in the morning.

A Few Other Movies

The Devil All The Time - 5/10

The Devil All The Time is cinematic masochism posing as a character study about violent and awful people, with no real sense of purpose for being as bleak as it is. After 138 minutes of repetitive brutality with the only nuances coming from the actors’ performances, the whole experience is exhausting. It’s more irritating when the only thing the story then has to offer is something as simple as “religion is bad, violence has consequences, and the devil is in all of us all the time.” You’re better off watching No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood instead.

Artemis Fowl - 1/10

I truly hated this audio-visual product. It disturbs me that despite having great source material in front of them, they took nothing from it. It’s insulting that Disney assumes that the audience is so stupid that they can reduce the cold and calculating anti-hero in the books to an embarrassing, insipid, “friendship-loving” kid who wants to just do random things for no rhyme or reason. There’s so much more to delve into, but it’s pointless being angry about yet another bad product from the Disney corporation. What a waste of resources.

Feels Good Man - 8/10

Most movies about the internet tend to be bad, but this is not one of them. A documentary following the journey of Matt Furie, the artist of Pepe the Frog, and his attempt to reclaim Pepe the Frog from the alt-right ends up becoming more a nuanced discussion about one central question: to what extent do we all individually or collectively own what’s on the internet? This central question drives the entire documentary, and it’s sweet and sad to watch this man slowly come to terms with his art being lost to the vast deluge that is the internet.