I’m Thinking of Ending Things: Review and Analysis

via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

Luke Pedersen, Writer

The movie I’m Thinking of Ending Things (directed by Charlie Kaufman) follows the events of a woman (who is given multiple different names throughout the movie) meeting the parents of her boyfriend (named Jake), but to say that that is all the movie presents would be a gross understatement. It is difficult to pin-point an exact plot of the movie, or at least after the first few viewings. Initially, one would believe that the movie is a surreal yet equally unnerving account of the main character watching the time around her slowly decay. The main character perceives multiple versions of the parents of her boyfriend throughout multiple periods of his parents’ life. This, and an interesting dialogue given by the central character stating that time is like a wind that flows through stationary beings (ourselves), suggests that the central theme of the movie is time and age, which is partially the truth.

The most interesting aspect of the movie is that the movie is not really about the main woman, rather I would argue the main character of the movie is the old Janitor that the movie keeps cutting back too. The Janitor is portrayed as an old, lonely, and depressed man with a life full of regret, which is entirely the truth. This man has lived an extremely lonely life and is trying to cling onto the last remaining pieces of happiness he gains from fantasizing a reality where he is younger and has a girlfriend. This is who the main woman who we follow for most of the movie is. She is a figment of the old man’s imagination, and Jake is a younger version of the Janitor. This foreshadows one of the central themes of the movie is. It is not only about the passage of time, but it is also a lamentation over the regrets and failures we make in our lives. The real horror of the movie is watching the Janitor slowly succumb to his depression and watching how his fantasy slowly becomes darker as a result.

Upon my first viewing of the movie, I had originally believed that the main theme was the passage of time. This led me to criticize the movie for lacking subtlety in the message (i.e. the main characters having multiple dialogue scenes explaining their views on time). This to me felt less like a real conversation between two characters and more like the director blatantly telling the audience what (I believed to be) the core theme of the movie. However, after figuring out what the real story of the movie was, I believe that this was entirely intentional as the lack of subtlety is mainly the Janitor himself talking and thinking about his own views of time. The focused imagination of the old man features its own theme of time based on his current thoughts and feelings, which is brilliant.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is less of a horror and more of a tragedy about a janitor slowly succumbing to his own depression while he tries to gain small moments of happiness by imagining an idealistic world where he is younger. The lack of subtlety in its horror and themes are really a front for its depressing, yet thought-provoking themes of regret and loneliness.