Let’s go home.
I was surprised that Charlie Kaufman adapted Iain Reid’s novel of the same name. For folks who read this blog frequently, you’ll know I give a lot of leeway in adaptations of existing works. The decision to accept changes allowed me to appreciate films in a different way than simply critiquing the differences. However, this is a rare example where I think reading the book will elevate this adaptation. The two can exist together despite their differences.
We follow a young woman (Jessie Buckley) as she is travelling to her boyfriend Jake’s (Jesse Plemons) parents’ farm (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) and will be meeting his parents for the first time. She is considering ending the relationship despite going with him this evening. While she recognizes the good qualities in Jake, there is something missing and wrong in their partnership, but she can’t bring herself to simply end it.
The film plays like a psychological thriller, which it is, but it is also so much more. The limits of self and other are blended here, as well as themes of life, love, death, and belonging. The film never beats you over the head with the points, but rather allows thing to manifest naturally (or unnaturally). We have references to Guy Debord but bringing in Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida would have likewise been appropriate. As the distinction of selfhood vanishes, subject and object likewise mesh and become to a certain extent pointless, further: what are we in the nothingness of our existence? Existential nothingness has usually been argued as a state of becoming, but here, it seems to be more focused on what has been (or could have been).
Heady themes mixed with a never-ending tension due to some sort of wrongness in the situations of the film make for an intriguing watch. Yet, this film refuses to meet you in the middle. Kaufman has no patience or desire to cater to mass cinema here as the presentation of the film embodies the same existential and philosophical struggles our characters are enduring. The film encourages you to look closely and engage. It is not interesting in holding your hand—and I applaud that.
I imagine the minimalist treatment of larger themes (along with the plot itself) will make this one fairly divisive. I’ve become exhausted with big budget nonsense that spoon feeds viewers. I know I’ve tried on this blog to give these movies a fair shake, but I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a refreshment I did not know I was starved for.
Claustrophobic scenes with anachronistic events create a tight and cold narrative. Even the open spaces feel small. Surreal imagery and a dreamlike quality make this film more like a nightmare that can’t be escaped. I mean this in the positive sense. There is more dread and unease here than in the last dozen big budget horror films.
Of course, how it compares to the book will be a major point of discussion and/or contention. In the final act of the narrative, the worlds of Reid and Kaufman collide, but what happens is a beautiful and chaotic melding of ideas, voices, mediums, and genres. The film becomes a stage, but the stage represents the film, but then what? I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I am curious to what others make of the last thirty minutes.
I’ve mocked Netflix films before. They needed something that stuck and stuck in a way that shows they are able to compete as a production company. I think this is one of their best films (if not their best). While I have enjoyed ribbing them, it is good that they seem to have found their footing a bit this year.
This is an absolute must watch.