Saturday, December 19, 2020

Movie with Abe: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Directed by Charlie Kaufman
Released September 4, 2020 (Netflix)

The passage of time is one major way in which people are able to understand life and what they experience. Being able to tether events to a specific date and moment provides a narrative that makes them more comprehensible and referable after the fact. Without a sense of when something is taking place, it’s possible to get confused and to misrepresent certain aspects of a situation since, without that context, it doesn’t have the same meaning. In cinema, the manipulation of time is a frequent device that serves to intensify storytelling, offering many opportunities for unexpected revelations based on the crucial grounding of when something is happening.

A young woman (Jessie Buckley) sits in a car next to her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons), who is driving them through the snow to meet his parents for the first time. Jake tries to engage in banal conversation, repeatedly interrupting the woman’s wandering thoughts that center on doubting the longevity of the relationship. When she arrives at the house, she meets his mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis), who both seem energetic and intent on embarrassing an uncomfortable Jake. As the night progresses, the woman becomes increasingly less confident in her surroundings and who she is.

This film, which is based on Iain Reid’s novel of the same name, comes from writer-director Charlie Kaufman, best known for truly bizarre films like “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation,” “Synecdoche, New York,” and “Anomalisa.” Knowing his involvement is a useful way to approach this film, which offers no explanation for the strange lack of detail and the inconsistencies that become gradually more apparent as the woman loses sight of where she is, mistaking, for instance, a young Jake in a photo for a younger version of herself as his parents’ age continually change. Categorizing this film as psychological horror is accurate in that it does involve a fully present sense of unease that gives way to a complete loss of anchoring, presented primarily in the unassuming interior of a car.

Even if it’s nearly impossible to make sense of what happens in this film, the performances at its center are deeply compelling. Buckley, who has impressed in “Beast,” “Wild Rose,” and the fourth season of “Fargo,” could talk for the entire film without stopping and still be fascinating, and she does a formidable job of representing a type of concentration and intellect that still doesn’t allow her to see how much she is losing herself. Plemons brings a different kind of presumed superiority to a character who isn’t nearly as smart as he’d like to think. It’s easy to be both captivated and befuddled by watching this film, one that does a great deal with very little, slowly and unnerving peeling away layers of dependable reality for a truly dizzying and unsettling journey that’s sometimes a bit too mind-numbing.


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