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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a purposefully disconcerting film. Younger audiences might tune out, not understand, or not be interested in long dialogue sequences that cite and debate classic films, books, poetry, and songs. The film seems to be toying with the idea of time-shifting and a lack of an "objective reality," as none of the characters are as they seem, and even the details of the life of the young woman narrating the story through an internal monologue shift throughout the tale. The film creates an intentionally uneasy mood with the settings: a stuffy car on a snowy drive, a farmhouse seemingly stuck in time, an abandoned high school. Despite a lack of physical violence, the sense that something terrible is going to happen is there for pretty much the full two hours. Adults drink wine, smoke cigarettes, and discuss roofies. The woman mentions sex, and the man's father says that a twin bed isn't for "f--king." Other language includes "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "crap/crappy," "t-t," "god," "Jesus," "hell," "sissies."
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What's the story?
A young woman (Jessie Buckley) accompanies her boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons), to visit his parents on their farm in I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS. She's questioning the rationale for making this trip when she's already considering calling off their relationship, and the two do seem a mismatched pair. On a snowy drive out of the city, they struggle to find topics to talk about naturally, and we start to get the sense something isn't right. Details about her own life start to get fuzzy, and the farm, which feels stuck in time, adds to her unease. Jake's parents begin to age and then grow younger practically in front of her eyes. She finally convinces Jake to leave, in a near blizzard, but it's not at all clear she'll make it back to the city or to the life she was leading until now.
Is it any good?
This is a highly esoteric film that will surely find its fans, but could also feel too talky, too strange, and too confusing for many others. The twisting plot and myriad cultural references and internal clues may excite some viewers and send them down Reddit rabbit holes to dissect it all, but they require patience and attention. Writer-director Charlie Kaufman seems to drop hints about the film's meaning without actually explaining anything. "There is no objective reality." "I guess that's what one hopes for when one writes things ... universality in the specific." Watching too many movies is a "societal malady." "It's all planned ... yet it isn't thought out."
I'm Thinking of Ending Things ponders the bending of time, the glorification of youth and beauty, the relevance of poetry in our lives, feminist readings of classic films and songs, dating and relationships, political correctness, and, if you can believe it, more. Also, it may suggest hell is high school, or maybe watching a high school musical. Despite all that, you get the sense that the film is more about a mood (an ominous malaise, also skillfully captured visually) than a clear message. The talented lead actors, Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, take their roles seriously and keep you engaged, which is lucky considering there are 20-minute sequences of just them talking in a car. Toni Collette and David Thewlis are perfect as the weirdo parents. Still, you may find yourself wishing Kaufman had ended things -- meaning, this two-hour-plus movie -- a little sooner.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what happens to the young woman in I'm Thinking of Ending Things. The film leaves much up to interpretation, so what's your take on what happened and what it all means?
What authors, films, and other works mentioned in the film did you recognize?
A character says humans are the only animals aware of their mortality -- they can't live in the present, so they "invented hope." What do you make of this comment?
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