Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things


(Tahlia Amanson)

By Phoebe Leisek

When I was 13, my best friend Tatum and I attended our first (and only) opera — a low-budget, mediocre production of Don Giovanni. At the end, there was a number in which Giovanni lamented his own death for what felt like hours, which Tatum and I mocked with our own far worse renditions for months afterward. Watching Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things felt eerily similar to how I felt at that theater four years ago — confused, frustrated, and flat-out bored. 

Before the Kaufman lovers of the world prepare a lengthy and metaphorical rebuttal against what is to follow, it should be noted that this film has repeatedly been described as “esoteric” and boasts plenty of loyal followers — it just so happens that I’m not one of them.   

The lack of a variation in setting and the cast’s successfully unnerving performance engulfed me in an overwhelming sense of dread from the moment I pressed play until the ending credits rolled. More than once, I found myself clasping my hands together and hoping against all odds that the moment of action would finally come, perhaps a jarring plot twist would be revealed or at the very least there’d be a jump scare that would relieve me of a bit of the claustrophobia I was feeling. Unfortunately, my pleas were not answered. 

Instead, the final 20 (give or take) minutes of the movie brought with them something that I imagine very few expected out of a so-called psychological thriller. My laptop screen was graced with the presence of a ballet number set inside of a snowing high school gym, a frighteningly naked grandfather, and a bleeding cartoon pig. You may be thinking that these scenarios only sound bizarre because the surrounding context is missing, but quite frankly there wasn’t much context to be found in the first place. 

A few stunned moments of silence after the film’s closing, I immediately took to Google on a mission to discover what the meaning of it all was. I was greeted with anticlimactic theories and an interview executed by Indiewire’s Eric Kohn in which Kaufman said “I’m not really big on explaining what things are.” Unfortunately, this was simply not the type of movie that I felt inclined to sit around and ponder the meaning of for another two hours, contrary to other (better executed) intellectually stimulating films, nor did I have the slightest direction of where to begin on that journey.

Initially, I had promised myself that I’d read I’m Thinking of Ending Things by lain Reid before I allowed myself to watch the film. However, curiosity fueled by hearing several highly polarized opinions on Kaufman’s interpretation got the best of me and I broke that promise. As you might be able to tell by now, it was far from worth it. While the book may very well be better than the film, in this case, I simply don’t have the motivation to trudge through another medium of the same absurd story. 

There’s a chance that this film may resonate with you on a deeper level than it did for me, but I would suggest placing a different psychological thriller on your watchlist for the time being. A few renowned favorites that may be worth your time include almost all of Alfred Hitchcock’s works, Jordan Peele’s Get Out, and The Sixth Sense. There are even TV shows satisfying this genre, notably The Twilight Zone and its modern counterpart Black Mirror. Whether you are a horror fanatic or a wimp like myself, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s a more transparent thriller that’s either just nightmarish or relaxed enough to satisfy your October desires — a slight fiction-induced chill might even provide some relief from this month’s heat.