‘i’m thinking of ending things’: Kaufman’s Latest Is One of the Most Profoundly Depressing Films Ever Made

by Spencer Henderson
I'm thinking of ending things

The following contains major spoilers for i’m thinking of ending things!!!

Let’s be honest, 2020 is just the worst. It is an absolute black hole that swallows anything fun or even relatively comforting in favor of something horrifically bleak or Earth shatteringly not okay. We all know this year blows, so that is why to start off this article, I cannot in good faith recommend i’m thinking of ending things to almost anyone. The reason being, that this is one of the most terribly depressing and upsetting films I have ever seen in my life. I did read the book prior to viewing the film, so I did not experience the confusion that some have surrounding the narrative of the film and I found this film to be as good as I could have hoped it to be. However, in a year that feels so hopeless and consistently disheartening, it is not an experience I can recommend you put yourself through.

On January 12th of this year, I had a family member who took his life and it has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with on a mental and emotional level. Specifically, the notion of pondering where he had to be on a mental level to follow through on that decision is the most unbearable thing to think of. It genuinely pains me on a physical level to consider this and since this has taken place, I have had to focus on mental health more than ever before.

In media, I oftentimes feel that suicide is portrayed in a way that while the piece of art’s heart might be in the right place, it does far more harm than good. I’m beyond fatigued of seeing a film where a teenager learns to live every moment to the fullest in the wake of the suicide of one of their peers. The truth is that there is no meaning to be found in suicide. It is a relentless and never-ending cycle of grief and pain that is born in a never-ending cycle of isolation and hopeless depression. Anyone who commits this act has a reason for doing so, and as a culture, we need to be far more careful and considerate of the rhetoric that we use surrounding it and more so, surrounding people who are experiencing crippling depression.

Due to i’m thinking of ending things being a film that deals head-on with these issues, I was slightly reluctant to view and review it. What I was surprised to discover is a film that I felt treated the act of suicide in a way almost as horrifically upsetting and sad as it truly is. The novel i’m thinking of ending things is an excellent book, but it very much hinges upon the revelation at the end of the book that there has only been one character throughout the narrative (well, in the book there are 3). I do think that how horribly depressing the story is can be lost on the fact that the twist is so impressive. The film does not suffer from this issue due to the choice of Kaufman to use the framing device of Jake’s reality as a janitor at the high school that the final stretch of this film takes place at. This choice emphasizes the isolation and loneliness Jake feels to devastating levels.

The tone of the film also feels like a magic trick specifically due to how well it utilizes sudden changes. What starts as an incredibly compelling and oftentimes depressing conversation in a car quickly evolves into the middle stretch at the parents’ house which is hilarious, scary, and deeply uncomfortable, sometimes all at once. A lot of this can be credited to some truly powerful performances from the cast. However, what is so powerful about the entire story surrounding the parents is the story it tells surrounding Jake. That he took care of his parents until their death and we are seeing the inner workings of his mind still attempting to process this is a truly powerful display of grief and how it manifests into our subconscious.

Where i’m thinking of ending things truly solidifies itself as one of the best and most powerful films of 2020 is in its devastating third act. Specifically, starting with the revelation that the young woman is simply a projection inside of Jake’s mind and that Jake is the only character who exists in the film. It is a cripplingly sad reveal that the only hope for happiness Jake had to cling to was the girl he didn’t have the courage to talk to at the bar. It is even sadder that even in his mind, he constructs a reality where even if he had mustered the courage to speak to her and ask her out, she would have still ended things by breaking up with him. The ways in which the film uses the surroundings of Jake’s reality of the high school, specifically in choices of makeup in the third act is nothing short of genius but is also frankly heartbreaking. Likewise, the use of the pig leading Jake to his suicide coupled with the context of the story Jake told earlier in the film of the maggots eating the pig from the inside out is such a powerful metaphor for the depression that has eaten Jake from the inside out and is too much to continue to live with.

The final scene displays a recreation of a critical scene from Ron Howard’s Best Picture-winning A Beautiful Mind. Thematically, I feel this scene also speaks volumes starting with the idea that Jake’s identity is that of a genius who feels completely isolated from those around him. It leaves the viewer questioning if this is what plays in Jake’s mind as he lay dying? Was all he ever wanted or needed the approval of those around him in a world he feels he doesn’t belong in? The approval he never got and a life he felt no purpose living.

In conclusion, i’m thinking of ending things straight up ruined my day, and I have had a lot of difficulties collecting my thoughts with this one. While it isn’t a film I can recommend due to the emotionally crippling subject matter, it is a film I am immensely glad that I watched. I think it is deeply important that we seek out those among us who are isolated and feeling a deep and profound pain; especially in a year as difficult as the one we are collectively experiencing together. Lastly, I want to say if anyone reading this is in a place even remotely close to the one portrayed in this film, there is nothing more empowering or courageous as asking for help. There are countless people rooting for you, who want nothing more than for you to be okay.

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Aimer Boyz September 15, 2020 - 4:12 pm

Thanks for this review; you’ve saved me a few sleepless nights. 2020 is bleak enough. No need to be looking for more sad.

Allie September 14, 2020 - 6:46 am

Firstly, I’m so sorry about your family member and I hope you’re doing as okay as you can be.
Secondly, thank you. Because your review has finally made me understand what actually happened and I can process it a lot better now. I don’t think I can bring myself to sit through it a second time, though.

Spencer Henderson September 15, 2020 - 2:11 pm

I appreciate the comment a lot. It’s been a rough year for everyone, mine just started in January. I am very happy to have helped you figure out the film. It is pretty complex and I think the weird vibes and the upsetting nature make it difficult to process and contextualize. I definitely think reading the novel prior to viewing the film helped me. I also totally agree with you about not being able to sit through this a second time. It’s so bleak. Anyway, I hope you are doing well and thank you again for reading. We all appreciate it here at Moviebabble!!

TFH September 13, 2020 - 10:06 pm

Serious stuff. Having suffered from Clinical Depression for 40 years now; I can ID with everything that you feel you witnessed or connected with in this film. I have tried twice. (Cries for help). Reaching out can be tough, particularly if you are a male. It wasn’t until 2000 when someone other than my mother (who had passed away 6 months earlier), took me seriously. It just happened to be a new young Doctor I took a chance on seeing. Life is not perfect, but it certainly is better. :D

Thus I do support your recommendation on this film. I think it is very responsible, and I plan to see it myself when life returns to it’s Universe supported rhythm. And it sounds like others should as well.

I am very sorry for your loss, and my prayers go to you and your family. I can tell you that it is very much a split second decision. And every once in a while, someone is successful in that split second. And it always begs the question why? I ride Volunteer Firefighter Paramedic to 7 to 10 attempted teen suicides a week these days. And although we have yet to lose anyone; it still leaves more questions than answers. It becomes a question I ask the Universe. Why?

Hang in there friend and friends. And do always tell someone when everything looks that bleak. Not only does it help; I’ve made some very good friends along the way.

Spencer Henderson September 13, 2020 - 10:29 pm

I genuinely appreciate this comment as well as your insight. It genuinely moved me and I want to thank you for sharing your experience with me. It definitely spoke to me with what I have been going through this year. I have also dealt with depression since I was a teenager and in alot of ways, I felt very seen by this film. I think it’s important that we speak and more importantly connect with one another about these things. Thank you for finding my article, reading it, and taking the time to comment. You have a friend here in me and all of us at MovieBabble.

Kali Tuttle September 13, 2020 - 3:02 pm

Hey Spencer! I really loved this article and your honesty with it all. I’m so sorry for your loss earlier this year. I have no experience with that sort of loss, so I have no idea what it feels like. Just know that everyone here at MovieBabble loves you and we’re very proud of you.

Anonymous September 13, 2020 - 7:21 pm

Thank you, Kali. That really means a lot.

Nick Kush September 12, 2020 - 6:51 pm

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