Now it’s on Netflix, let’s get I’m Thinking of Ending Things explained. Its meaning will have you desperate to give it another watch.
Charlie Kaufman films come along all too rarely but when they do they’re always a cause for celebration and deep contemplation.
If your head is still spinning from seeing Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, we imagine that I’m Thinking of Ending Things left you thinking that the rest of the year’s releases are destined to test you.
That’s surely not the case – it’s just that Kaufman’s world is always a very peculiar one.
The 61-year-old American talent is arguably best known for his screenplay work – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, Being John Malkovich – but he announced himself as a director to cherish with his 2008 debut, Synecdoche, New York.
Even over a decade later, audiences are still digesting it and his long-awaited second feature, 2015’s Anomalisa – co-directed by Duke Johnson – left fans eager for more.
Fortunately, we haven’t had to wait as long for his third feature and I’m Thinking of Ending Things is now available to stream on Netflix.
Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose) stars as a young woman who is going to visit her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Although their relationship is in the early stages, she’s thinking of ending things; it starts here but rapidly evolves into something very unexpected.
Well, unexpected unless you’re a seasoned Kaufman fan or familiar with the source material, Iain’s Reed’s 2016 novel of the same name.
Let’s get it explained.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things explained
The film invites unique readings and it’s clear that Kaufman himself wouldn’t have it any other way.
In an interview with IndieWire, he expressed:
“I’m not really big on explaining what things are. I let people have their experiences, so I don’t really have expectations about what people are going to think. I really do support anybody’s interpretation.”
Already, many have come forth with their interpretations of the film but majority audiences have largely agreed on a number of details.
Firstly, the mysterious janitor is the key to unlocking its meaning.
Both Lucy – her name fluctuates – and Jake are a fantasy; a creation envisioned by the lonely janitor.
Lucy’s career, attitude, interests and even appearance changes throughout the film because she is a projection of a woman the janitor remembers. Although he never got to know her, he has created this layered version of her in his head.
A good example comes from her impersonating the American film critic Pauline Kael after we spy a book of her work in his room.
As highlighted by the Los Angeles Times, the clues are there from the start to suggest the life of Jake is the janitor’s fantasy.
Anchored by Buckley’s characters’ voice-over, a shot of the back of the janitor’s head cuts to the back of Jake’s, foreshadowing that the events of Jake’s night take place in the old man’s head.
Things change so drastically – the age of the parents etc. – because there are no rules to fantasy and he is scrambling to imagine the perfect moment, desperately attempting to figure out what age this ideal woman should meet the parents at.
The musical number
Arguably, the film’s meaning is best captured during the musical/dance number which takes place in the school.
We see the couple from the film the janitor was watching earlier come together and dance, representing Jake and Lucy.
However, this fantasy is interrupted by a janitor, which suggests that the thing which threatens to bring this fantasy tumbling down is the janitor’s reality and his knowledge that this has all been a sham.
Basically, it’s fantasy and reality in conflict displayed through a surreal dance sequence.
The version of Buckley’s character we see is a fabrication, but her image is that of a woman the janitor saw at a bar one night; when the reality and fantasy merge, we see the janitor being swallowed by his emotions.
As for the song ‘Lonely Room’ which the film ends on, Inverse notes that it’s taken from Oklahoma! – which was referenced earlier – and the lyrics are about the character realising how truly lonely he is.
A fitting end to a rather heartbreaking film.
We can’t wait to see it again!
Audiences react to the film on Twitter
The film has inevitably proven divisive already but there are so many audiences who consider it to be one of the year’s best films.
Check out a selection of tweets:
In other news, Donald Trump high heels joke storms Twitter.