I wrote a couple weeks back that Tenet was confusing the first time I watched it. I don’t think that’s by design, but poor sound mixing. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the new Charlie Kaufman film on Netflix, is confusing by design. I watched this last Saturday morning, thinking that it would be a dark and twisted comedy, which in some ways it is. I wasn’t prepared for how strange and perplexing the film would be.
The story follows an unnamed protagonist, listed as young woman in the credits, who is travelling with her boyfriend, Jake, to meet his parents for the first time. The problem is that she doesn’t see a future in the relationship and is thinking of ending things, hence the title. The main plot is intersected with a seemingly random janitor who works in a school. The first half of the film is unsettling and creepy and works really well. Something isn’t right and just a little uncanny. The young woman, who is given several names throughout the film can sense that there is someting wrong. There are parts of the film tha feel so tense and I was holding my breath waiting for the horror to happen. Even at the halfway point when things were getting werid, I was still invested and drawn into the surreal world.
It all falls apart though at the last hurdle. The last section of the film takes a turn and goes from being unsettilng and strange to just confusing. I didn’t know what was going on for the last few scenes. For those who have seen it, from when the young woman enters the school to the end. I don’t have a problem with films that don’t explain themselves, as long as I’m still feeling something. A couple of years ago, Mother! did this perfectly. For the most part I had no clue what was happening, but I was reacting to what I was watching and it was unsettling and I loved it. I’m Thinking of Ending Things walks this tight rope so well for the most part, it just falls off towards the end into a pit of pretentious rubbish. It was just strange for the sake of being strange and I didn’t get anything from it.
I had my own theory for what it all means and what actually happened. I like that. I like films where I can question things and make my own mind up. This leads me down a rabbit hole where I can read things online, discuss with others and engage with a film in a deeper way. While I don’t think the ending works, the film is interesting to watch and for the most part I did enjoy it and it has to be said that the whole cast are on top form for this film.
To dive deeper into the hole I ended up buying and reading the novel by Iain Reid. I wanted to see if that made any more sense. I’m glad that I did take the time to read the book. It works so much better on the page. The premise is the same and the scenes are petty much identical. To use a cliche the book is a page turner. There is so much tension that slowly builds from the opening pages and you always know that something isn’t right. Most chapters end with a couple of pages of a conversation between two unnamed characters and it’s through these pages that we get our first glimpse at what is actually happening.
Unlike the film, the book stays grouded. It’s still strange and unsettling, but it just doesn’t try too hard to be clever. My theory from the film was confirmed. I suppose that means the film works to some extent since I understood it, I just didn’t think I did. Overall I would recommend the book. It’s short and you could probably read it quicker than watching the film. It’s also better. Read the book and skip the film.
Thanks for reading and until next time,