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Charlie Kaufman’s new Netflix adaptation, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”


“It’s good to remind yourself that the world’s larger than the inside of your own head, ” said Jake, played by Jesse Plemons, as he and a female companion, Lucy (who goes by various names), take a long drive down a snowy road, or so we think. Similar scenes, ones where it appears as though he is talking to himself, are consistent throughout the movie, indicating the narrator’s instability and instilling doubt in the viewer. Originally written by Ian Reid, Charlie Kaufman adapted the book, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”, into the Netflix psychological thriller. 

Like a constant theme in the movie, the title does not appear as it seems. Many people assumed that the movie was about a woman contemplating suicide or reminiscing on a past relationship, when in fact it is about the inner workings of an aging mind and its relevance to time, if there even is one. The film includes somewhat uncomfortable and thought provoking scenes that aid in the questioning of the character’s reality. The movie starts simple as two lovers, Jake and Lucy, travel to meet the lead male’s parents and attend a family dinner, but it quickly becomes blatantly disconcerting as the couple arrives. A night of introductions and dinner becomes a journey through Jake’s hometown and, as it appears, his memories.

Impeccable acting by the limited cast adds to the overall unsettling feeling the movie gives you. The Oscar winning actress, Toni Collette, does an outstanding job playing the role of Jake’s mother and is a standout character. Whether that was intentional or not, the performance succeeded in gaining my acknowledgement of a great actress. 

Although containing noteworthy performances, the cinematography was at the forefront of the film. Subtle wardrobe change (some as simple as the color of a skirt), time-lapses, and transitions create an overall unnerving environment. The setting of a deserted road and rural home amidst an increasingly dangerous snowstorm adds a dark atmosphere and an unconscious thought of no escape. 

Lucy begins to see his family, as they are, as they were, as they will be, and after they’re gone. She then begins to question what is real? Is she real? And seemingly most important, why can’t she seem to end things with Jake?

The answer to that question lies in Kaufman’s previous films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s in these films where Kaufman begins to question the manic pixie dream girl. She is defined as a character who exists solely to teach men to embrace life, or in other words, a woman whose sole purpose is to motivate a brooding and unusually mundane white male. 

In Kaufman’s adaptation of “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”,  Lucy briefly mentions that she feels she is only there to validate Jake. She then says that by her being well-educated, her approval of Jake is validated, and he is praised for ‘catching’ a beautiful and well educated girl. This would explain why she is referred to as having various names and well-rounded professions. 

The idea that these are indeed memories from Jake’s aging mind goes to prove this troupe. By constantly being referred to by different names and identified as different professions, it can be inferred that Lucy is a combination of various women in Jake’s life meshed together to create the perfect girl. This perfect fantasy girl would then serve to make his mundane and loveless life into one where he had it all.

Personally I approve of Kaufman’s use of the manic pixie dream girl, which normally can be seen as sexist. Rather than using this character to validate the lead male, he uses it to question the lead male and his view on women. 

If you like movies that make your mind work and make you question your reality, or if you just enjoy movies that are a little bit creepy, I would give it a watch. Despite it’s rating of a 6.7 on IMDb, I would give it a higher rating of 7.5. This is partially due to Kaufman’s use of the manic pixie dream girl, but primarily on account of the breathtaking acting and extraordinary cinematography. 

Infographic by Isabella Bogo

Isabella Bogo, Staff Reporter

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Charlie Kaufman’s new Netflix adaptation, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”