“I’m thinking of ending things.”
Our young protagonist informs us bluntly. Her name and identity are unknown. She’s a mystery to viewers. But what’s not a mystery is her feelings towards her new boyfriend, Jake.
“I’m thinking of ending things.” she reminds us once again as she enters the car. She and Jake are due to go on a road trip to go visit Jake’s parents. The car ride is bleak as the two travel through the wispy white snow that hides the long road they are on. A road that seemingly leads to nowhere. There’s a heavy sense of dread in the air. The protagonist, offering excuse after excuse to get out of the trip. Her reluctance and outward annoyance with the visit blatantly contrasts, her doting boyfriend’s eerie need to appease her. It’s clear from the start that she’s made her mind up about Jake, but as they travel down the empty frosty roads, the vast unknown before them projects a terrifying image of the events to come.
An adaptation of Ian Reid’s psychological thriller novel, bearing the same name, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is as uncomfortable as it is fantastical. In an almost dream-like series of events, we see what starts off as a seemingly innocent road trip snowball into a disturbing series of events. Our protagonist, is the only thing familiar to us, speaking directly to the audience through her unapologetic confessionals. We are her confidants yet, she remains a stranger to us, elements of her identity ever-shifting throughout the movie. Even so, we are happy to be her confidant. We are the only other ones that are privy to bear witness to the strange happenings around her. For us, the protagonist stands out starkly, as the image of sanity amongst the insane. When we see strange things otherwise denied by other characters, she is here to affirm our thoughts and suspicions. In turn, we empathize with her. At the school when she regretfully mourns not having ended things with Jake. We can’t help but agree. We know that she doesn’t deserve the hysteria surrounding her and somehow Jake has become a convenient scapegoat to code our displeasure on.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is strange, tense, and silent in ways that will keep viewers on edge and unnerved. Here, director Charlie Kaufman steps away from his use of gory imagery that occupied his other films like Hereditary to horrify audiences with a slow-burn tension. He tells rather than shows, using language to build the tension across scenes. When the major twist is revealed at the end of the movie, audiences will be left in shock and deeply disturbed.