By Twinkle Ghosh
Based on Iain Reid’s best-selling novel by the same name, the latest from Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) turns out to be a perfect blend of esoteric deception laced with a soaring chill of stifling panic. This is not cinema that leaves you feeling good. Neither does it walk a comfortable path. Yet, ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ is one of the most audaciously startling, existential films. It is a powerhouse of unnerving psychological horror, soaked in absurd dream logic that tips over into the realm of nightmares every now and then.
A young woman, Lucy (played by Jessie Buckley), is thinking of ending things as her boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons), is driving them through a snowy blizzard to his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) for dinner. She’ll need to return home after the dinner because of work, she’ll repeatedly tell him. There is a risk they might get stuck there as the storm aggravates. He tries to keep the conversation going on the drive there, but she’s too occupied in her own thoughts. Their future together doesn’t bode well, in her estimation.
The maze Kaufman guides us through is a dark mystery. He never pulls back far enough to show us the whole thing. But as prickly and suffocating as the paths are, they seem to be eventually leading to a sense of hope.
The film explores the early stages of a relationship, the angst of first meeting the parents. But it is most of all about uncertainty. Uncertainty over what you think you know, what you have been taught to know, to the extent of questioning the very nature of your own thoughts as original. The film raises several questions about the fount of our ideas and thoughts – where they come from, whether there are not just mere impersonations or copies planted in by pre-existing tools from our society’s way of life.
The film boasts of some of the most brilliant performances of all times by Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis. Despite the lack of clear answers and structure being frustrating, the offbeat narrative complements just how genuine 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 corporeal, especially as tensions rise.