Lucy takes a visit to meet her boyfriend’s parents, all the while thinking of ending things. Right? It’s a fever dream that’s a little frustrating, but ultimately very moving.
For a while, I’m Thinking of Ending Things just feels like the most self-indulgent, morose, trip to nowhere. Nuanced performances and nice compositions help string things along until the story, bit by bit, reveals itself in strokes of terrifying and upsetting. Which, actually, makes you not want to end things (or… well, the movie).
“Horror movie,” is a bit of a stretch for this one, but the elements are there. Some of the best horror movies focus on how scary we are. I’m Thinking of Ending Things does a brilliant job exploring the traps and limitations of our own psyches. This is a movie that kind of happens all at once, but over 2 hours and 14 minutes. So it’s a bit of a head scratcher.
It can be frustrating to watch something confusing, thinking you should have answers, or feeling irritated that there’s some greater picture you’re missing. It seems the best way to view I’m Thinking of Ending Things is to be comfortable just absorbing the film and trusting that it will make (enough) sense in the end.
It works because, although puzzle-like, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is not a puzzle. There is a “reality,” it seems, hiding under all the ticks and diversions, but the value of the film is not about uncovering that “reality”–not about solving some puzzle or figuring out what the writer wants us to think. It’s about a character–a beautiful, haunting portrait of a character. Everyone will find a piece of themselves here.
Unfortunately, there are lots of references that, although not necessary to understand, add a great deal to the emotional and psychological experience the film paints. Plenty were lost on me, and it feels dirty googling references from a film after having watched it.
The best aspect of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, however, is that it truly uses the medium. It is an adaption of a novel, but Kaufman presents a picture that lives and breathes film. Sometimes it feels like movies forget they’re movies. There is no “right” way of doing things, and Kaufman is determined to blow it all up.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things doesn’t care about structure, or a clear narrative, or, hell, correspondence–it doesn’t let anything get in the way of being a film.