Writer and director Charlie Kaufman has been creating mind-bending, original films since his first scriptwriting endeavor “Being John Malkovich” in 1999. His newest movie, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” currently streaming on Netflix is an adaptation of a 2016 novel of the same name by Iain Raid, and it has all of Kaufman's usual writing and directorial signature moves.
The story of the film follows a couple — a young woman whose name keeps changing through the film and a young man Jake — as they visit Jake’s parents for the first time in their new relationship. Most of the movie takes place at three locations, one of them being a car, and even though that does sound limiting at first, Kaufman does a great job at keeping the momentum alive no matter how stationary the characters might be at the moment.
Arguments can be made that when other directors tackle Kaufman’s scripts (like the case with the already mentioned “Being John Malkovich” and Kaufman’s Oscar winning “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), they make them more digestible as an art form for the viewers.
This movie definitely showcases that Kaufman has improved as a director as the years have gone by. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is still extremely weird, but it still has a somewhat cohesive narrative that builds up to its third act, more fluid than his previous directorial projects.His writing is commendable, especially for the fans of his previous work. The dialogue is eerily uncomfortable, but at the same time personal and engaging — something that Kaufman has been executing perfectly for years.
When it comes to performances, Jessie Buckley, who plays the name-changing young woman, absolutely steals the show for the entire running time. The amount of nuance she is able to pull off while transitioning from playing the only straight character to being as insane as everybody else on screen is rarely executed with such great fluency.
Jesse Plemons, playing Jake, delivers an expectedly strong and captivating performance, something he has been doing consistently on film and television ever since his days on “Breaking Bad” in 2013.
Jake’s parents, played by David Thewlis and Toni Collette respectively, are also an absolute joy to watch. This is all thanks to Kaufman’s well-paced and deranged dialogue, as well as the experience that both Thewlis and Collette have with playing weird and off-putting characters. They are both examples of some of the richest supporting characters put on screen in recent years.
It is hard to say whether this film is a good adaptation or not. The third act has some major changes when compared to the source material, but it is not clear whether this version is an improvement to the ending or a disservice to fans of the book.
Fans of Kaufman’s work should be satisfied with the whole experience, but book-readers should approach this movie with slight reservation because of how different the movie ending is.
Overall, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is another solid off-beat addition to Kaufman’s already impressively weird filmography. This is a must-see project for anybody who enjoys complex narratives that slowly unravel themselves into more mind-bending weirdness.