I’m Thinking Of Ending Things: Explained Simply

Hi, this is Barry and welcome to my site. Did you just watch the movie I’m Thinking Of Ending Things directed by Charlie Kaufman and draw a blank? Same here. The first time around, I was continually trying to guess the plot-twists and ignored the details in the movie. While that might have worked for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, it was a bad idea for this film so had to watch it a second time. This film has details in so many layers that one can write endless articles about them. Instead, I’m going to focus a quick and dry explanation and a semi-detailed one lining out all the critical points. For more information, you can check out this interview by Kaufman. Here’s the plot analysis and ending of the 2020 movie I’m Thinking Of Ending Things explained, spoilers ahead.

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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things: Explained Simply, In Short

The entire film is the fantasization of a lonely old janitor who imagines alternate versions of his life which involved being radically intellectual and in relationship with a lovely woman. Thanks to overly protective parents, Jake grew up cocooned and alone facing a rough life in school, sometimes bullied and other times neglected. Jake spent much of his time with books, movies, poetry and musicals. His parents always told him that he was brilliant and a terrific artist and Jake made a connect with his life and the film, A Beautiful Mind. Sadly, in reality, Jake was mediocre at art, was no science wiz, and landed a job as the janitor in his own school.

Alone and neglected, Jake grew old but was a good son to his parents. Lucy is one of many women Jake wanted to be with, but he was never noticed by women, and he never mustered the courage to talk to anyone. Over the years, Jake has constructed elaborate artificial events in his mind, including taking his girlfriend to meet his parents. The drive to his parent’s place is through a cold and melancholy path reflective of his state of mind and loneliness. The discussions during the ride are all contents of the books and movies he’s spent his life with. The dinner at their home also sees his parents at multiple points in time of their lives because Jake is trying to pinpoint that exact time which would be great to introduce his girlfriend to them. No moment feels right. In the end, we see Jake bidding farewell to his fantasy of being with the woman he loves and sadly dies cold and lonely in his truck while imagining being acknowledged for his existence.

I’d now like to go through the many details laid out in the film. But I am not even going to try to peel all the layers of this onion. The film has so many little things drizzled all over, each one making for a tiny piece in this psychological puzzle. I’ll touch upon only the critical moments in I’m Thinking Of Ending Things to help piece the film together.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things: Explained (Detailed Version, well, Semi-Detailed)

Who is Lucy?

Jake has conjured up a girlfriend in his mind and oddly even in his head, she wants to leave him. She is not one, but many variants of his fantasy girl. You can see her being referred to as Lucy, Lucia, Louisa and even Ames. She changes to a medical student, a painter, a quantum physicist, and a waitress as the movie plays out. These are all the variations of Jake’s fantasy girlfriend. Her persona is Jake’s external validation. She is a wholesome person who is in a relationship with him, therefore making him wholesome too.

The Cold and Clammy Weather During The Drive

As mentioned in the movie, the weather and scenery is a representation of the mood of the viewer. In this case, the melancholy environment is a reflection of Jake’s life.

Lucy recites poetry about loneliness. Though she says she wrote it, it’s from one of the books Jake has read, Rotten Perfect Mouth. He even mentions that the poem feels like it was written based on his life.

All other conversations in the car are from the various movies, books and musicals Jake has indulged in. However, when they later talk about the film, A Woman Under The Influence, Jake claims it’s a great film, but Lucy soon rips that opinion to shreds while taking on the character of the reviewer from 1974. Jake has attributed every ounce of his knowledge to an imaginary 3rd person, even his opinions are not his. While his heart loves the film, his mind agrees with the review.

dinner with lucy and Jack's parents

The Parents And Their Changing Ages

We see Jake’s parents going from middle age to old as the evening progresses. These are Jake’s various iterations of his girlfriend meeting his parents all bundled into one evening. As I mentioned earlier, Lucy’s names and professions keep changing along with how they first met. The clip we see directed by Robert Zemeckis is merely one such fantasy where Jake meets Lucy, who is a waitress.

Jake is trying to nail that one perfect meeting with his parents but is unable to as deep down he knows he never spoke to any of the women he fancied. He does love his parents, though, and stayed with them, taking care of them till they died. Jake’s mom slipping up and mentioning his 50th birthday celebration is indicative of this.

The Basement And Washing Machine

The basement represents the truth. Jake is scared of it because of the fear of reality. What is in the washing machine are his janitor uniforms. We see this when Lucy happens to go down to put the nightgown to wash.

Who Is The Caller in I’m Thinking Of Ending Things?

I would like to think that this is the voice of reasoning. The caller says this on both occasions:

There’s only one question to resolve. I’m scared. I feel a little crazy. I’m not lucid. The assumptions are right. I can feel my fear growing. Now is the time for the answer, just one question. One question to answer.

I believe the question is about the truth, and that none of this is real.

The Tusley Town Ice Cream Shop

What Is The Significance Of The Tulsey Town Ice Cream Shop?

Tulsey Town seems to be the metaphorical representation of a “cold place” because all that Jake got in his life was a cold shoulder. He avoids the pretty girls in the shop (who represent many of the good looking folk in his life) because all they have done is be mean to him. We see the same pair of girls making fun of Old Jake, the janitor, as he passes by in school. It never ends for poor Jake.

The girl with the bruises on her hands seems to be the part of Jake’s mind that represents the ridiculing and perhaps bullying he has faced growing up. As Jake makes the payment, you can see the same scars on his hand as on hers.

Jake is persistent about throwing away the icecream into a garbage can. He heads to the school and drops it off in a specific large bin. We’re later shown this bin is full of disposed of ice cream indicating that Jake has been executing this portion of his fantasy in loops.

Lucy Meets The Janitor

In the car, Jake kisses Lucy and sees a vision of his old self peeping at someone else making out. It appears that he indulged in voyeurism as he never got close to any woman. Jake storms into the school in anger, and Lucy follows.

The janitor (Old Jake) comes face to face with Lucy, and in that conversation, it is revealed that Jake never talked and only stared at her, which creeped her out. Initially, Jake tries to hold on to her by offering his shoes just like he did at home. This time Lucy declines politely, and the two of them bid farewell to each other. Jake finally lets go of his failed fantasy and accepts his lonely reality.

The Dance Sequence – Oklahoma!

We then see stand-ins for both Jake and Lucy perform the dream dance sequence from the musical, Oklahoma!. In the musical, this sequence shows two lovers dancing and are interrupted by the antagonist killing the protagonist. In I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, too, we see Jake’s step-in being killed by what appears to be a middle-aged Jake. He’s both the hero and villain of his story.

im thinking of ending things ending explained

The Animated Pig At The End Of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things

Early in the film, in a tour of the house, Jake states the story of ignored pigs that got eaten alive by maggots as they sat in one place. At the end of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, we see an animated pig rise from the ground with maggots dripping from below. The pig leads the way for old Jake. I believe this is him being taken to his afterlife. Jake dies in that car, you can see his hands shake and breathing get heavy. It appears to be heart failure.

The Award Scene At The End Of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things

This scene portrays the last thought that goes through Jake’s mind before dying. The setting mimics the award acceptance sequence in, A Beautiful Mind, incorporating even a part of the speech that Russell Crowe’s character makes as he accepts his Noble Price.

The Audience represents everyone from the foreground of his life. The way he remembers them, young, but now with an old-age make-up to indicate time has passed. These are all the individuals he never interacted with, including his girlfriend; he was all alone in a sea of people. But now he imagines that they have come together to honour his life as in the end, everyone becomes dust.

A set of his old room is wheeled on to the stage, and he sings a song from Oklahoma! In the musical, the antagonist sings this song as he yearns for the girl but, like Jake, he eventually doesn’t get her. Jake imagines everyone giving his life a standing ovation as he makes peace and dies.

The final frame of the film shows Jake’s truck covered with snow, indicating that he passed away in the middle of the cold, snowy night.