'I'm Thinking of Ending Things': The Book the Netflix Movie is Based On

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is the latest movie released on Netflix. The movie, which stars Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, is directed by Charlie Kaufman, the mind-bending auteur who as a writer, told us what it was like Being John Malkovich and brought us out into the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As a director, meanwhile, he has made Synecdoche, New York (called the movie of the 2010s by Roger Ebert) and the personal puppets movie Anomalisa.

His new movie, however, is closer in spirit to Adaptation, the 2002 Nicholas Cage movie that Charlie Kaufman was nominated for an Oscar for writing. That movie was based on the non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean's non-fiction account of a group of people arrested for trying to steal rare flowers.

However, in Kaufman's hands, that story becomes about his own struggles to adapt the book, with Meryl Streep playing the author and Cage playing a version of Kaufman as he writes his script while trying to avoid the sort of metafictional style that he demonstrated in his script for Being John Malkovich—which of course makes for a film far more metafictional than the previous movie ever was.

Similarly, I'm Thinking of Ending Things is ostensibly an adaptation of a book of the same name by Canadian writer Iain Reid. But while other adaptors might be happy to cut a character or subplot or two, Kaufman yet again prefers a freer style.

Admittedly, Kaufman's version of I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a closer adaptation of the book than Adaptation was of The Orchid Thief. The Netflix movie keeps the basic plot of the novel: Jake (played by Jesse Plemons) and his unnamed girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) heads to the house of Jake's parents (David Thewlis and Toni Colette) for dinner, where many disturbing things start happening.

im thinking of ending things book
Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Colette and David Thewlis in 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'. The Netflix movie is based on a novel by Iain Reid. Netflix

The synopsis of the book reads: "Jake and his girlfriend are on a drive to visit his parents at their remote farm. After dinner at the family home, things begin to get worryingly strange. And when he leaves her stranded in a snowstorm at an abandoned high school later that night, what follows is a chilling exploration of psychological frailty and the limitations of reality."

A number of plot details from the book are also kept, like a creepy high school janitor who has some role to play in the story, plus a woman the central couple meet at a Dairy Queen. However, as one negative review of the movie in Time put it, "Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things—which he wrote and directed—is less an adaptation of Iain Reid's novel of the same name than it is another invitation into Kaufman's own brain."

As such, he completely rewrote the dialogue. His version of the characters are much more likely, for example, to engage in intellectual conversations about the song "Baby It's Cold Outside," quote Pauline Kael's film criticism or discuss situationism (this is the sort of film that could have a bibliography rather than end credits). He also gives moments of strange fantasy sequences missing from the book, including a musical number.

Speaking to the L.A. Times about adapting I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Kaufman said: "I liked the dreaminess of it. I thought visually it was interesting, in that it was so claustrophobic and it took place mostly in a car during a snowstorm. That appealed to me. I liked the challenge. I thought maybe I could do something with this."

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is streaming now on Netflix.