From 'Eternal Sunshine' to new film 'Ending Things': Charlie Kaufman explains why he's drawn to romantic strife

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·3-min read

It’s a futile exercise, attempting to categorize or classify Charlie Kaufman movies.

That has not stopped the internet from declaring I’m Thinking of Ending Things Kaufman’s very first “horror” movie.

“Well, if it’s a horror movie, it’s not my first one,” Kaufman tells us during a recent video chat for the Netflix release). “If you would define it as a horror movie than [Synecdoche, New York] is a horror movie. And Anomalisa is a horror movie. And perhaps [Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind] is a horror movie. And Being John Malkovich is a horror movie. They’re not conventional genre horror movies, but there’s stuff that I think people are scared of in the real world that exist in these movies.”

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the moody tale of a young couple (Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley) on a short road trip to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) at their secluded farmhouse on a stormy night as she contemplates breaking up him via voiceover. Or possibly ending her own life, it’s never clear. That’s how the film starts off, anyway. The film takes so many strange turns through its second and third acts, it’s one of those cryptic, abstract cinematic meditations begging for analysis as to what it all means. (The film was adapted from a similarly cryptic novel of the same name by Iain Reid.)

Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley in 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' (Netflix)
Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley in I'm Thinking of Ending Things. (Photo: Netflix)

It has creepy moments, for sure, but Hereditary it is not.

When looked at in the grander scheme of Kaufman’s work, it exemplifies a more certain theme in the writer-director’s work: romantic strife.

Eternal Sunshine is one of the ultimate break-up movies, and other films like Being John Malkovich, Human Nature and Syndecoche, New York have mined similar territory.

“That’s a good question, I don’t have a therapist anymore so I can’t ask,” Kaufman says when asked what keeps drawing him back to romantic hardships. “I think it’s probably a big part of the things I think about.

“And I also think relationships are representative of other things going on in one’s psyche. So you can be talking about relationships, but you can also be talking about some internal battle or some things that you’re working out for yourself. I don’t know, it seems universal to me, relationships. I don’t know what else I would write about.”

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is currently streaming on Netflix.

— Video produced by Jon San

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