I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Critics Consensus

Aided by stellar performances from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, I'm Thinking of Ending Things finds writer-director Charlie Kaufman grappling with the human condition as only he can.

81%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 232

47%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,073

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Movie Info

Full of misgivings, a young woman travels with her new boyfriend to his parents' secluded farm.

Cast & Crew

Jessie Buckley
The Young Woman
Abby Quinn
Tulsey Town Employee #2
Hadley Robinson
Tulsey Town Employee #3
Ashlyn Alessi
Tulsey Town Employee
Charlie Kaufman
Screenwriter
Peter Cron
Executive Producer
Gregory Zuk
Executive Producer
Lukasz Zal
Cinematographer
Robert Frazen
Film Editor
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News & Interviews for I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Critic Reviews for I'm Thinking of Ending Things

All Critics (232) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (187) | Rotten (45)

  • It can be tough going. But I can't stop thinking about the damn thing. I'm diving in again. Eventually.

    October 19, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Although there's a desire to give the benefit of the doubt to any filmmaker who was once involved in the creation of screen treasures, there comes a time when one must ruefully give up the hope that the future will be reflective of the past.

    September 9, 2020 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Delving into memory, misery and mortality...I'm Thinking of Ending Things not only nudges Kaufman back into the spotlight, it reminds you of how much his voice has been missed.

    September 8, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Charlie Kaufman's latest is so good it induces separation anxiety.

    September 5, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" is an unsolvable riddle where the only answer is mankind's hopelessness, and we've been down this road before.

    September 5, 2020 | Rating: C | Full Review…
  • Charlie Kaufman is pushing again at the boundaries of what a screen story can achieve.

    September 5, 2020 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for I'm Thinking of Ending Things

  • Sep 20, 2020
    I expect strange from a Charlie Kaufman movie; that goes without saying. I also expect some high concept turned inward and, most importantly, a humane if bewildered anchor. His other movies have dealt with similar themes of depression (Anomalisa), relationship entropy (Eternal Sunshine), identity (Being John Malkovich), and regret from afar (Synecdoche, New York). However, no matter the head-spinning elements, the best Kaufman movies have always been the ones that embrace a human, if flawed, experience with sincerity rather than ironic detachment. There's a reason that Eternal Sunshine is a masterpiece and that nobody seems to recall 2002's Human Nature (ironic title for this reference). 2015's Anomalisa was all about one man trying to break free from the fog of his mind, finding a woman as savior, and then slowly succumbing to the same trap. Even with its wilder aspects, it was all about human connection and disconnection. By contrast, I'm Thinking of Ending Things is all about a puzzle, and once you latch onto its predictable conclusion, it doesn't provide much else in the way of understanding. It's more a "so, that's it?" kind of film, an exercise in trippy moments intended to add up to a whole, except it didn't add up for me. I held out hope, waiting until the very end to be surprised at some hidden genius that had escaped me, for everything to come together into a more powerful whole, like Synecdoche, New York. It didn't materialize for me and I was left wondering why I spent two hours with these dull people. A Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) is traveling with her boyfriend Jake (Jessie Plemons) to meet his parents for the first time. It's snowy Oklahoma, barren, dreary, and not encouraging. In the opening line we hear our heroine divulge the title in narration, which we think means their relationship but might prove to have multiple interpretations. It only gets more awkward as she meets Jake's parents (David Thewlis, Toni Collette) and weird things continue happening. The basement door is chained with what look like claw marks. People rapidly age. The snow keeps coming down and the Young Woman is eager to leave for home but she might not be able to ever get home. The title is apt because I was thinking of ending things myself after an hour of this movie. Kaufman's latest is so purposely uncomfortable that it made me cringe throughout, and not in a good squirmy way that Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) has perfected. Kaufman wants to dwell and drag out the discomfort, starting with the relationship between Young Woman and Jake. She's already questioning whether or not she should be meeting his parents and their inbound conversations in the car are long and punctuated by Jake steering them into proverbial dead ends. He's a dolt. You clearly already don't feel a connection between them, and this is then extended into the family meet and dinner, which takes up the first hour of the movie. I'm Thinking of Ending Things tips its hand early about not trusting our senses and that we are in the realm of an unreliable narrator. Characters will suddenly shift placement in the blink of an eye, like we blacked out, and character names, professions, histories, and even ages will constantly alter. The Young Woman is a theoretical physicist, then a gerontologist, then her "meet cute" with Jake borrows liberally from a rom-com directed by Robert Zeemckis in this universe (my one good laugh). Jake's parents will go from old to young and young to old without comment. All the surreal flourishes keep your attention, at least for the first half, as we await our characters to be affected by their reality, but this never really happens. Our heroine feels less like our protagonist (yes, I know there's a reason for this) because her responses to the bizarre are like everyone else. The entire movie feels like a collection of incidents that could have taken any order, many of which could also have been left behind considering the portentous 135-minute running time. There are a lot of weird moments and overall this movie will live on in my memory only for its moments. We have a lengthy choreographed dance with doubles for Jake and the Young Woman, an animated commercial for ice cream, an acceptance speech directly cribbed from A Beautiful Mind that then leads directly into a performance from Oklahoma!, an entire resuscitation of poetry and a film review by Pauline Kael, talking ghosts, and more. It's a movie of moments because every item is meant to be a reflection of one purpose, but I didn't feel like that artistic accumulation gave me better clarity. There's solving the plot puzzle of what is happening, the mixture of the surreal with the everyday, but its insight is limited and redundant. The film's conclusion wants to reach for tragedy but it doesn't put in the work to feel tragic. It's bleak and lonely but I doubt that the characters will resonate any more than, say, an ordinary episode of The Twilight Zone. Everything is a means to an ends to the mysterious revelation, which also means every moment has the nagging feeling of being arbitrary and replaceable. The second half of this movie, once they leave the parents' home, is a long slog that tested my endurance. Buckley (HBO's Chernobyl) makes for a perfectly matched, disaffected, confused, and plucky protagonist for a Kaufman vehicle. She has a winsome matter of a person trying their best to cover over differences and awkwardness without the need to dominate attention. Her performance is one of sidelong glances and crooked smiles, enough to impart a wariness as she descends on this journey. Buckley has a natural quality to her, so when her character stammers, stumbling over her words and explanations, you feel her vulnerability on display. After Wild Rose and now this, I think big things are ahead for Buckley. The other actors do credible work with their more specifically daft and heightened roles, mostly in low-key deadpan with the exception of Collette (Hereditary), who is uncontrollably sharing and crying. It's a performance that goes big as a means of creating alarm and discomfort and she succeeds in doing so. I know there will be people that enjoy I'm Thinking of Ending Things and its surreal, sliding landscape of strange ideas and images. Kaufman is a creative mind like few others in the industry and I hope this is the start of an ongoing relationship with Netflix that affords more of his stories to make their way to our homes. This is only the second movie he's written to be produced in the last decade, and that's far too few Kaufman movies to my liking. At the same time, I'm a Kaufman fan and this one left me mystified, alienated, and simply bored. I imagine a second viewing would provide me more help finding parallels and thematic connections, but honestly, I don't really want to watch this movie again. I recall 2017's mother!, an unfairly derided movie that was also oft-putting and built around decoding its unsubtle allegory. That movie clicked for me once I attuned myself to its central conceit, and it kept surprising me and horrifying me. It didn't bore me, and even its indulgences felt like they had purpose and vision. I guess I just don't personally get that same feeling from I'm Thinking of Ending Things. It's a movie that left me out cold. Nate's Grade: C
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Sep 18, 2020
    I found this nearly insufferable and pretentious.
    Bradley J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 12, 2020
    Kaufman captures a specific kind of melancholy here. A nostalgic grief for our perceptions of the past more built on emotion than truth. That the movie is also quite funny is a remarkable achievement.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 12, 2020
    Anyone familiar with Charlie Kaufman will know by now that he's a master at creating and exploring the torment and claustrophobia of the human psyche. I'm Thinking Of Ending Things is, as expected, no different and once again showcases Kaufman's unique approach to storytelling. In fairness, the film actually begins with a straightforward narrative with subtle hints of dialogue and images thrown in to prepare you for its inevitable trickery and psychological assault. Kaufman is in full command here and conjures some beautiful imagery alongside numerous cultural references and his usual brand of odd humour. It's in the final act, however, that the film becomes bewildering, even eerie in its unravelling. This will polarise audiences and leave a lot of head-scratching, chin-rubbing and undoubted frustration but there's an undeniably intelligent piece of craftsmanship on display. It's Charlie Kaufman after all; probably the most original and off-kilter filmmaker since David Lynch.
    Mark W Super Reviewer

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