“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”: 2nd Viewing – Spoilers Abound!

Max Vetter, Entertainment Reporter

Genus writer and director Charlie Kaufman’s newest feature “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a film about regret. Even with beautifully perplexing movies like “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and “Anomalisa” (2015) under his belt, his newest film is confusing in such a way that you probably got the main character wrong. It follows Jake, a high school janitor who’s reminiscing about what could’ve been. While he’s an idealist by nature, the weight of his failures in life, his career, and with women, are causing him to contemplate ending his life. So he imagines the young woman, an amalgam of all of the women he’s failed to court, who is still apprehensive to the concept of being with him, because that’s all his memory can conjure. As his imaginary trip with the young woman – who is at the same time Jake and a construction of his memory – finds out more and more about the real Jake, in a deeply unsettling and tragic game of spot-the-difference.

The film’s production is stunning, with magnificent production designer Molly Hughes creating Jake’s childhood home, filled to the brim with details and hints towards future revelations. The house highlights Jake’s trauma as a child, and cinematographer Łukasz Żal highlights the house with his fabulous 4:3 framing. The aspect ratio not only emphasizes the reflective feel of the movie, but also helps create claustrophobic frames that help deliver the emotion of each scene. 

But this film would be nothing if it weren’t for Kaufman’s magnificent screenplay, which is one of his best to date. Each line of dialogue is deliberate, simultaneously adding to the dread of Lucy’s? Lucia’s? Louisa’s? The young woman’s story and the tragedy of Jake’s. It’s also amazing seeing how many smoking guns that Kaufman can reveal without revealing the twist of the movie. The magnificent script is also complimented by Jesse Plemmons (Jake) and Guy Boyd (Jake as the Janitor), with Plemmons giving his best performance to date. 

As the film piles on layers and layers of abstraction, it reveals the tragedy of being unable to live up to your expectations, no matter how hard you try. Jake was a smart kid, but he could never stand his ground, forming his own opinions and becoming an artist, or poet, or whatever else he wanted to be. This leaves Jake alone, with only his regret, and an imaginary girlfriend who, while seeming idyllic on the surface, can only regurgitate the personality and opinions of what Jake already knows. “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is fabulously abstract and thoughtful like the rest of Kaufman’s filmography, while providing a stronger emotional core than almost all of his previous work. Though it may seem like Kaufman’s most emotionally distant film on a first viewing, this movie masterfully hides its intentions, ascending to the legendary status of top-tier Kaufman. Go see it, it’s 2020’s best movie by far.