Here’s the skinny on this movie: Netflix original from 2020, based on a book, over 2 hours long. And, for a movie that’s over 2 hours, there really isn’t much to talk about.
So, let’s get started. I’ve got more movies to watch.
This movie can be divided pretty easily into 3 parts, so that’s how we’re gonna tackle it. Part by part. And while it’s not exact, it seemed like each part took about 1/3 of the screen time (although the middle felt way longer; we’ll get to that in a minute.)
So, to start off, we’re introduced to the main character, Lucy. She repeats the phrase “I’m thinking of ending things,” while riding in the car with her boyfriend Jake. This car ride stretches on for a while; they’re on the way to his parents’ house, who Lucy has never met. She’s nervous about this, of course, but more than anything she’s nervous about Jake.
Lucy spends the car ride lost in thought for long intervals (mainly doubting whether their relationship could ever work long-term), except when Jake pulls her out of it with conversation. Strangely, at this point, it seems like Jake can read her mind. For example, she’s thinking about Henry David Thoreau at one point, and then Jake brings him up in the conversation. (They talk a lot about classic literature.)
Once they get to the house, the parents are suitably creepy. The conversations are much more interesting than those in the car. The parents keep aging, getting very old, and then young again. This doesn’t seem to phase Lucy. As someone watching the movie, it definitely confuses you, but it’s not hard to go along with.
The whole atmosphere in their house is creepy and there’s a lot of tension, but also melancholy and regret. There are a few tear-jerking scenes. You’re unsure whether Jake is the bad guy, or if there even is one. But along with Lucy, we spend a while in this peculiar home, until tragedy strikes, and her and Jake hit the road once again.
The Middle (A.K.A. Driving Forever)
The middle part is where this movie loses steam. At about the 45-minute mark (I’m estimating), they get back in the car and head home. The snowstorm from earlier has picked up, and it’s hard to drive at this point. Slowly but surely, they make their way back.
Even if you find the conversations interesting, this part just takes so long, and nothing happens. There are small clips of a janitor at a high school, and again you’re not sure if he’s supposed to be creepy and the bad guy, or just someone who is an outcast from society. Then, back to the car, and the classic literature conversations. I can see how this part of the movie would play out significantly better as a book, which makes sense; the movie is based on the novel of the same name.
They stop at a strange ice cream shop, very Dairy Queen-ish, but creepier. Jake seems to know the girls working there, but refuses to acknowledge them. This whole scene is full of tension, but at last he pulls Lucy away from the store and they continue in the car ride.
More and more of this car ride. I had to turn off the movie and finish it later, because the minutes just dragged by. But, finally, they reach a new place. It’s the high school were Jake attended, and he heads inside for some reason, leaving Lucy alone. Well, she eventually follows him in.
And this is where things get… even stranger, somehow.
This movie is the type that has you scratching your head the whole time, thinking, “What does this all mean? What is this trying to say?”
When they get to the school, you think, “Finally. We’ll have some concrete answers.”
Lucy follows Jake inside and runs into the janitor we’ve seen earlier. There’s a suspenseful moment where she’s hiding from him, and he of course finds her, and we think, “This is it… the climax…”
But he’s friendly, albeit a bit strange, just like Jake’s parents back at the house. Lucy seems comfortable around him, just like she did around them, and holds a conversation. Then the characters we’ve been watching are replaced by similar-looking ones who go through some type of ballet sequence, ending in a death, and a snow-covered gymnasium.
It all happens so fast, you can’t process it on the first watch. And with only fifteen minutes left in the movie, you wonder, “How could this ever wrap up and make sense?”
Well, it does wrap up, but it doesn’t make sense.
Jake (clearly wearing some type of aging makeup) is standing on a stage, and he gives a short speech. Then he breaks into song, something from the musical Oklahoma. The sold-out auditorium is full of the extras we’ve seen through the whole movie; the girls from the ice cream shop, his parents, Lucy, all wearing the same obvious aging makeup.
Then, Jake is finished, and they give him a standing ovation. He tears up.
It makes no sense. There is an explanation, as this website explains, but to the average viewer (or maybe just me) the movie leaves you with more than questions. Just total confusion, like you don’t even know what questions to ask.
There’s a lot to like in this movie. It’s very well-done, from a technical standpoint, and it asks thought-provoking questions. It’s just a little too obscure, though. And the director’s explanation (see link above) doesn’t help much.
Overall, I did enjoy it, but I’m not interested enough to watch it again. Maybe it’s a lot better on the 2nd watch-through, I don’t know. And I’ll probably never find out.