The Road Trip Movie. You know how they go. Two (or more people) set out in a car and have witty banter, fun adventures, and then eventually get to their destination having grown from the experience. They’re typically formulaic and only successful when you like the characters (or actors) enough to want to tag along for the ride. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a Road Trip Movie. It is nothing like I just described.
The film follows a woman (Jessie Buckley) and a man (Jesse Plemons) as they head to and from his childhood home. They’ve been dating a while, she tells us through one of many voiceover narration segments, but she’s already done. As the title indicates, she’s thinking of ending things. But she’s going to meet her boyfriend’s parents anyway because, well, she hasn’t yet decided how to end things – and every time she musters the courage to do so, she gets cut off. The characters are intellectual and well-read, and while their conversations are awkward they are also engaging.
It’s during this initial drive that something feels off about I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and that feeling continues to grow as the film moves along. Saying much more would qualify as spoilers, but let’s just say that the movie gets weird, and you’re probably not always going to be sure what exactly is happening. It gets weird, in short, and has entire sequences that would feel out-of-place in a traditional movie. But this isn’t that.
Because of its strangeness, because it leaves certain events up to interpretation, and because it doesn’t have a whole lot actually happen in its 135-minute running time, I’m Thinking of Ending Things isn’t going to be for everyone. You need to be okay with ambiguity and trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. If you’ve seen any of writer-director Charlie Kaufman‘s previous works, you’ll have a sense of what I’m talking about. He doesn’t make things easy on the viewer, and his films are unlike anyone else’s. For that reason alone, I think this is a movie worth checking out.
If you do decide to watch I’m Thinking of Ending Things, you get a lot more than just some weird, open-to-interpretation elements. The tight 4:3 cinematography is perfect for the enclosed spaces in which the film takes place, the sound design is used in creative ways, and the performances are tremendous. Buckley’s internalization and Plemons’ generally subdued nature play so well off one another. Toni Collette, David Thewlis, and Guy Boyd all play key roles and there isn’t a misstep among them.
It took someone like Charlie Kaufman to reinvigorate the Road Trip Movie, and that’s exactly what he’s done with I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Instead of it being “about the journey, not the destination,” it’s about all of it, and none of it. And if that sentence made sense to you, then you’re going to be right at home with this movie. It works on a technical level, and on a performance level, but it’s in its thematic and narrative ambiguity that it really shines. You’re going to be thinking about this one for a while after it ends. It’s a bit of work but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s well worth it.
Conclusion: I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a Road Trip Movie like none other.
Recommendation: If you have the head space for it, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is absolutely worth your time.
- Rating - 9/109/10