I could tell you “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” was made by someone out of their mind. It’s a critique as common as it is vacuous. The film is aggressively obtuse and entirely disinterested in explaining itself, so I have no idea whether I ‘got’ it. But to dismiss the film as deranged nonsense is to ignore the overwhelming sense of craft oozing from every frame. Charlie Kaufman is one of my favourite film makers, and here he’s both director and writer (by way of adapting a synonymous novel by Iain Reid). Even down to the tight 4 by 3 aspect ratio that creates a palpable sense of claustrophobic tension so fitting for this story of awkward social encounters, you can see him hand-picking every pixel.
But this would all fall flat on its face without actors who can carry it, and co-stars Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons add so much as the human elements that give the audience a way into this auster style and a reason to care about what’s at the center of this puzzle box. It’s a feat of charisma to talk in a car for tens of minutes at a time and remain so engaging, and it’s vital if the depth and range of topics they discuss are going to register as part of this cinematic tapestry. With Toni Collette and David Thewlis alternating between sinister and hilarious between single lines and a story that splices together different times and realities to keep you invested but off balance.
Honestly though, this film is hard work. Beyond the gorgeous aesthetics, it’s effort to take in what’s happening, and if I have one substantive criticism it’s that the film doesn’t resolve itself in much of a satisfying way. While raising so many fascinating topics and expressing them in beautiful ways, I’m left with a sense that I now have homework if I want to get a fulfilling answer for what it all meant.