This post has gone through many edits and rereads by yours truly, because after I watched the film adaptation of I’m Thinking of Ending Things (authored by Iain Reid), I had a lot to say, and so I wrote down all of my thoughts in a post. Initially they were negative outbursts without a lot tying them together, and even now (about a week later) this post still feels like a first draft. But I really cannot spend any more time on more edits, and so I finally present my highly emotional, dramatic, negative, and scathing response to the film adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books.
First though, I feel the need to write a disclaimer: My relationship with films is extremely casual. I do not have enough film knowledge or objectivity to write a Review of I’m Thinking of Ending Things; I’m simply complaining about how terribly I think this adaptation was done (and with Iain Reid listed as a co-producer, no less). And I hope my tone is coming through here as passionate but not too hateful. I really tried to edit down the parts where I nearly cross the line over to hatred. And I also hope it’s clear that I am not taking this too seriously (just maybe don’t bring up this film to me after reading this post). Plus, I do actually have some positive things to say. They are just overwhelmed by the overall negative view I have of this adaptation.
I first read I’m Thinking of Ending Things in January of 2017, and have recommended it countless times. I’m just amazed by its simplicity and genius, and when Iain Reid’s second novel came out (August, 2018), I was again struck by his writing, storytelling, and psychologically-affecting abilities. I hope, that if Foe is ever adapted, someone else handles it.
By “someone else” I mean not the director (and screenwriter) of the I’m Thinking of Ending Things film. I tried hard to think of a way to write my disdain in a way that didn’t sound like I was berating or going after the director or screenwriter, but it’s sort of unavoidable, seeing how his choices are what make me dislike the film. After much hesitation and a couple of conversations with people who did not like it/thought it fell short, I finally watched it, and cannot believe how disappointed it made me. I am actually nervous that if people watch the movie before reading the book, the book will become the last thing they will ever want to read.
The questions that were present in the back of my mind as I hit PLAY on Netflix included: how true to the source will the movie be? and will the writer and/or director add too much of their own interpretation to the story? While the plot sort of stayed on track for most of the film, there was too much of the director/screenwriter’s style; I’m Thinking of Ending Things (novel) works because of the way Iain Reid wrote and developed it, therefore any shift in style, direction or removal of certain scenes alters the effect of the story on the viewer. For example, there is a scene in the book at the beginning that heightens the eerie nature of the story, and sort of keeps the reader slightly distracted and creeped out; this scene was cut from the movie, and so instead of flashing to that scene while Lucy and Jake are in the car, we had flash forwards which sort of ruined the plot twist/surprise. And speaking of when they are in the car—wow was I bored. I don’t disagree with how realistic their boring banter was, but that’s just it: it wasn’t entertaining, it was just boring to watch. I didn’t care that it was snowing/there were dangerous conditions outside, I didn’t care that Lucy was thinking about ending things with Jake; looking back at the timestamp I can hardly believe the car ride sequence lasted only 22 minutes—it felt like 102.
While Iain Reid’s novel felt consistent in tone, the movie was all over the place. The ending sequence in the high school is so focused and concise in the book; otherwise it might be trickier to grasp the point. But in the end of the film, we had real life, a ballet, and a play, all thrown into the last 20 minutes, which produced a rushed, disjointed effect. It offered an interesting view of how whirlwind or chaotic our minds can be, but for me it was unfavorably unexpected.
As for my positive thoughts about this movie, the primary one relates to the main cast. Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons are great in their roles of Lucy and Jake as written by the screenwriter/director; their emotive (or non-emotive) expressions and the way they spoke to and with each other felt realistic (again, just too realistic to elevate it to an entertaining/anticipatory/interesting level). Toni Colette and David Thewlis were also exceptional with every one of their lines, looks, and age changes.
Another positive was the way the camera moved within certain scenes, to either block or expose something from and to the audience. It was an unnerving technique, which was needed for a story like this. Some of the jump cuts were also positively jarring, although too many seemed accidental and misplaced.
And a final positive: I now would love to see this whole story adapted as a ballet. I’m getting goosebumps thinking [again] about Peter Walker‘s choreography in the film; we could always use more dark, psychologically chilling ballets.
So if it isn’t already clear, I do not recommend watching the movie adaptation of I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. This is one of those books that really would only work as a film if the film followed every detail. Sometimes stylistic choices made by a director or screenwriter can elevate a plot or story, but this was not one of those times.