As the year starts to come to a close, many seem to wonder about the plethora of films reportedly being released in 2020. Many releases have been delayed to next year or have been delayed indefinitely with no plan of release in sight. But, films like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and the new Marvel X-Men movie, “The New Mutants,” have been released in theaters during the pandemic. However, film studios have found a new way of releasing their films. Films like the live-action “Mulan,” the animated “Scoob” and “Trolls World Tour” have been released either on video-on-demand or on the studio’s streaming service. While this seems like a scary future for moviegoers, it’s nice to catch up on new releases and not have to risk anyone’s life in the process.
Netflix has tossed their hat into this ring by releasing multiple films this year. Many of them have even been gaining some Academy Awards buzz, such as the latest from writer and director Charlie Kaufman, titled “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.”
The film is Kaufman’s third directed film after “Synecdoche, New York” and “Anomalisa,” and is adapted from the book by Ian Reid of the same name. The film tells the story of a woman (Jessie Buckley) and her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) as they travel to meet Jake’s parents for the first time. While they are traveling, the woman thinks of ending her relationship with Jake, as the title says.
I am going to stop right there with the plot synopsis because it is best to go in as blind as possible with this film. This is Kaufman’s first attempt at doing “horror,” and I claim that genre very lightly. If you have seen his other films, such as “Synecdoche, New York,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Adaptation” and so on, you know what you are getting yourself into. Kaufman delved into the human experience with a playwright in “Synecdoche, New York,” he explored the memories we share with our partners in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and he dug into the brain of a man writing a screenplay while experiencing writer’s block in “Adaptation.”
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is truly a triumph in and of itself, and shows Kaufman in his most inaccessible mindset. This is a film that will be engraved in your brain long after the credits roll.
As of right now, it is my favorite release of the year, and will be very hard to top. The performances are brilliant; Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons are both phenomenal, and they feel like these characters. Toni Collette and David Thewlis bring great performances and are truly given a ton in this script. The screenplay is classic Kaufman; it is thematically both beautiful and depressing, discussing timeless messages of growing old and the passage of time being too fast, while also speaking to how relationships work.
The film invites its audience to constantly rewatch, and the themes I have stated before don’t even scratch the surface. While you can make the argument that this film drags at times, I was consistently riveted from start to finish. The car scenes with the girlfriend and Jake were hypnotic and allowed the audience to understand their relationship. The horror aspect of this film is not what many think of when they think of the horror genre. Most modern viewers witnessed this genre become more about loud jump-scares and disturbing atmospheres. But, in this film Kaufman uses existential horror, meaning that he wants horror not to be about a monster or ghost, but about the human condition. He makes the fear of dying alone and of time slipping away much scarier than it actually is. The camerawork here allows Kaufman to pull off incredible feats and wonderful shots. On the technical aspect, this is Kaufman’s best film to date.
Stunningly real, and even more depressing as the two hour and fourteen minute runtime continues, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a masterpiece from Charlie Kaufman. He continues to provide his fans, and newcomers, with intense themes and heart-wrenching imagery. Once again, the performances here truly shine, and the writing displays Kaufman at his most eccentric. I would love to see this film grab one, if not several, Academy Award nominations this year. If you have not seen this yet, I implore you to check it out and form your own opinion.