I’m Thinking of Ending Things Review
A young woman (Jessie Buckley) and her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) in Oklahoma are driving to Jake’s parents (David Thewlis and Toni Collette) house so that she can meet them for the first time. Along the way, strange things occur, which only increase during and after their meeting.
Charlie Kaufman’s films are identifiable by their focus on relationships, the human existence and being weird in a dreamlike fashion. This one ticks all those boxes and whilst his approach goes hand in hand with the strange source material he is adapting, he also makes plenty of changes, especially towards the end. As a reader of the book, the changes he made do make the story harder to grasp (especially with the removal of interjections from unseen characters), but they also feel welcoming for the kind of film Kaufman is aiming to make and the script still succeeds at getting the general point of the book across as well as following it’s structure.
The story’s presentation is what stands out the most. There is so much thematic underpinning to the dialogue, the characterisation, the narrative structure, the set design, everything. Despite the strangeness of every single sequence, it all makes sense when one takes certain factors into account, factors that are hinted at and semi-revealed towards the end. Without getting into details, the themes are of memory, regret, personal desires and madness.
The acting is excellent all around. Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons are both mostly understated, but have some brilliant, powerful moments of acting. Collette and Thewlis are the opposite, being totally hammy but entertaining to watch, with their roles being more varied than I expected. Whilst Kaufman’s direction does favour static shots, he still manages to create a strange, interesting atmosphere with a beautiful look. He even utilises intentionally bad continuity at points in a way that few directors can pull off.
As for flaws, I do think the strangeness of the narrative is presented a bit too forwardly. I would have preferred it if the beginning was more regular, but by being openly weird right from the start, it does cripple the opportunity for a more suspenseful narrative. Also, the slow pacing and the lack of an identifiable genre might be too off-putting for some, so keep in mind that this is not a film that is meant to be enjoyed, but instead taken in and thought about.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a challenging movie that will leave one thinking for a while. It might only land with a niche audience, but I respect just how much Kaufman is willing to go against the traditions of storytelling and filmmaking for sake of getting across this narrative. It is incredibly worthwhile and very successful.
The Devil All The Time Review:
Over a 20-year span from 1945 to 1965 in Knockemstiff Ohio, various stories weave into each other. The Russell family, started by Willard (Bill Skarsgard) and Charlotte (Haley Bennett) then continued with grown-up son Arvin (Tom Holland) and step sister Lenora (Eliza Scanlan) go through several trials and tribulations, culminating in conflict with sinister preacher Preston (Robert Pattinson). Meanwhile, sheriff Lee Bodecker (Sebastian Stan) is on a path of corruption and serial killing couple Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy Henderson (Riley Keough) cross paths with all of these figures.
I loved Antonio Campos’s previous film Christine. The similarity that that film and his second film Simon Killer shared is that they were simple singular character studies of troubled minds, whilst his latest is wider in its scope. This change is unfortunately not for the better.
The best aspect is easily the acting of the ensemble cast, all of whom are great. The ones who steal the show are Riley Keough and Robert Pattinson, with the former getting one of the few complex roles and the latter being incredibly menacing in a part that could have been cartoonishly evil but is instead realistically creepy. Elsewhere Tom Holland plays against type in a manner that’s refreshing for someone mostly typecast as geeks and both Bill Skarsgard and Eliza Scanlan make the most out of very tragic roles. The only actors who get wasted are Mia Wasikowska and Haley Bennett, which is disappointing given how well they have done in other films.
Story-wise, this film could be described as “A series of awful events” That’s the biggest problem overall, as the consequence of juggling these multiple storylines in a 135-minute film results in none of them feeling very fleshed out, despite having the potential for depth. They instead feel very simply presented and any complexities they could have had are not that well conveyed. Rather than explore the motivations of the characters, the story just has them do things terrible things and experience terrible things, with their choices and situations being understandable but not interesting. As a result, it just becomes a catalogue of brutality and there is no point in it. One particularly frustrating choice is the setting up of a character’s moral turn only for that to mean nothing in the end.
The direction is solid, but not spectacular. It is gritty looking and decently shot, but there could have been more energy to compensate for the lack of substance, though the slightly long running time does not drag at all. The narration that pops up every so often is also so unnecessary, especially in the beginning when it tells us things that ruin the suspense of a couple of later scenes.
The Devil All The Time had the potential to be great, but instead, it is merely okay. It’s worth watching for the performances and some individual effective scenes, yet on the whole, it is unsuccessful in its ambitions.