By Donovan Levine
“I’m Thinking Of Ending Things” is a drama thriller film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman and was released on Sept. 4.
The film stars Jessie Buckley, who plays a nameless woman, and Breaking Bad star Jesse Plemons, who plays Jake. The movie is based on a novel by Iain Reid.
The story is from the perspective of a nameless woman who has been dating a guy named Jake for about six or seven weeks. At the beginning of the film, Jake drives her through a blizzard so he can take her to his childhood farmhouse and meet his parents.
There is another parallel story throughout the film of a janitor living a regular day doing custodial work at a high school.
During a lunch break, he watches a film of a man who drums up the courage to profess his love to a waitress he’d been crushing on. Later on, the audience learns that Jake’s girlfriend is a waitress and she and Jake he met when he asked for her number at a diner.
The film ends with a long ballet sequence with two new actors dressed as Buckley and Plemons’s characters. Jake then receives a Nobel Prize in front of a wallpaper background of his childhood farm and delivers a speech in front of his peers and classmates.
The janitor is seen trapped in his parked car in the middle of the freezing blizzard. The final shot before roll credits is a still image of a car completely buried in snow.
The editing and shot composition of the film was very jarring and creepy at times, often with shots of Buckley’s character facing away from a room full of people, and then turning around with no one there.
Kaufman also had it shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which is a very narrow screen that often gives off the sense that the characters are trapped in a place where they can’t escape.
There are a number of interpretations for what this film means. Popular interpretations insist that the janitor in the parallel storyline is Jake as an old man suffering from schizophrenia who created his girlfriend as a physical manifestation of his regret.
The Nobel Prize speech scene could be a hint at this, for it is a reference to the film “A Beautiful Mind” that features real life Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash Jr. who is a paranoid schizophrenic who made up a best friend and his best friend’s family.
Jake’s girlfriend also recites poems that are later found in poem collections in Jake’s childhood rooms. Her knowledge and critiques on pop culture mirrors Jake’s as well.
She asks how long it takes for someone to die of hypothermia just before the janitor is last seen alone in his car, which likely implies that the janitor (Jake) passed away that night. It also may imply that when she says “I’m thinking of ending things”, it was Jake himself wanting to end his life.
Jake was recounting his own life through an imaginary girlfriend, and she represents his regret of never having the courage to ask out the girl he loved.
He is also bitter that he never got rewarded for taking care of his parents and ended his life serving a thankless job as a custodian. As one can imagine, this can be something many people have dealt with at one point or another working a job or taking care of someone without anybody there to notice.
Jake is lamenting the fact that nobody noticed the good things he did in his life, which for many people is a very relatable and empathetic perspective on life.