I’m Thinking of Ending Things: The Bizzare Plot & Ending Explained

Still from 'I'm Thinking Of Ending Things', Image Source: Netflix

Streaming on Netflix, Charlie Kaufman‘s ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ establishes its uniqueness by exploring the human psyche and by making us think that everything in the movie is meaningless and meaningful at the same time. Here is a guide to help you sort through the various aspects of ‘I’m Thinking Of Ending Things’ by explaining what it all really means. 


‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ Plot Summary

Hitting the road with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons), a young unnamed woman (Jessie Buckley) is on her way to his parents’ house. The pair had only met a few weeks ago, and this marks their first trip together. This mystery woman is thinking of ending things with him. As the movie progresses, we indulge ourselves into her story as we dive into her thoughts and witness strange happenings through her viewpoint. Things start turning bizarre once they arrive at his house, as she begins to notice some shocking details.

Who is the Janitor?

We observe the events of ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ through the eyes of the girlfriend. However, while we are given her introduction, we also get to meet an older man standing by the window. He keeps on whispering something repeatedly, and these whispers are also heard when the girlfriend picks up the phone call. Running parallel to her & Jake’s visit, we also see the story of the janitor (Guy Boyd). 

So how is he related to them, and how does his phone call work in this scenario?

Reflecting upon the several hints in the film, we conclude that the janitor is none other than Jake, and this whole situation with the girlfriend is just an illusion (Janitor/Jake’s) created by his imagination. Jake’s parents are actually long dead. He is isolated & lives alone.

He works as a janitor, and often gets mocked by the youthful girls at school. When he was a teen, he wasn’t very famous or friendly, but he indeed was hard-working and “diligent”. One day while reflecting upon his situation, he begins to wonder what would have happened had he mustered the courage to ask for the number of the girl he saw at a trivia night.

Who is the Girlfriend?

Still from ‘I’m Thinking Of Ending Things’
Image Source: Cosmopolitan

We never get to know the real name of the girlfriend, and this facet of the story is a proof enough to say that the girlfriend is an unreliable character. Jake even calls her as Ames, short for Amy, at one point, but she doesn’t even correct him.

Another thing that makes us suspicious of her instability is how she fails to register any of the crazy back-and-forth flow of time, related to Jake’s parents. She is everything that Jake is. She maintains that she is a poet, but then she doesn’t even know about Wordsworth. She talks about her paintings, but they turn out to be Jake’s.

And conclusively, in the end, at the school, while talking to the janitor, she articulates Jake as a person who she has registered in a crowd just a passing interaction. She also calls him creepy and says that when he had been checking her out, she wished her real boyfriend was there. 

Contemplating all of this, we can say that she is not Jake’s girlfriend. Now, when Jake is utterly alone and old, he has no friends, or family, throughout the movie, he wonders what would have happened had he really talked to her that night. But nothing ever happened, so the woman we meet at the beginning of the film is a part of Jake’s imagination.

So why is she thinking of ending things? 

'I'm -Thinking-Of-Ending-Things
Still from ‘I’m Thinking Of Ending Things’
Image Source: CNBC News

The only possible reason we can think of is the fact that the janitor has a desire of ending things for himself as well. Because, through their connection, we realize that they are the same person. This also explains to us why the girlfriend looks at Jake’s photo and sees herself instead.

She also remembers the swing-set outside a decrepit house, and she also identifies one of the girls as the ice-cream shop even though she hasn’t met them before. This is because Jake recognizes them, as he has met them before. And since she is a reflection of his mind, she knows these girls too.

What do the events at Jake’s home mean?

The moment the couple enters the house, we sense something eerie. Despite the warmth Jake’s parents exude towards the Girlfriend, Jake seems strangely unattached from them. It looks like he is there to show them that he can do better in life as he has a girlfriend. But then again, his parents too are nothing but a part of his imagination.

While exploring his house, the girlfriend sees Jake’s parents through different stages their of life. We see his father’s deteriorating health, and his mother succumbing to her sickness with Jake by her bedside. Jake was their only child, and thus, he had to take single-handedly take care of them.

Could this be the thing that held him back from the good life that he yearned so much? 

Yes, and this theory can be proved by the girlfriend’s repeated attempts to get out of the house and go back to the city despite the bad weather. Jake, on the other hand, keeps on finding excuses to make her stay in town at least. He halts at an ice-cream parlour in the middle of a snowstorm, and he doesn’t even eat any ice cream. And then, by making an excuse of disposing the cups, Jake takes her to high school, from where the two never return.

In a way, this trip signifies how Jake tried to convince himself that staying back with dying parents was the right thing to do. This thought comes back to Jake when he is old and has no one to care for him or love him.

What was it with the ice-cream parlor? 

It was a place that he visits very often. There he sees the two girls who make fun of him at the school, and the one girl who gives him a nod of acknowledgement rather than ridicule, works there. He identifies the loner girl through the marks on her hand.

Both Jake and she have it. Jake, feels that he has been once just like loner girl. He was also shy and awkward and had no friends. He liked it when people talked politely to him, unlike the pretty girls who were crueller towards him. The mean girls don’t even believe that he is not lonely, even in his imagination. 

The ending was deeper than what one might comprehend. Here’s why:

Still from ‘I’m Thinking Of Ending Things’
Image Source: Netflix

‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ ends bizarrely with Jake the Janitor ending all things himself, by taking his own life. After Jake leaves his imaginary girlfriend in the car, she follows him and runs into the janitor. After a brief conversation, she searches for Jake, following which a confusing dance sequence rolls out in front of us. From here, Jake and his unnamed, imaginary girlfriend, go their separate ways. 

We cut to the shot of the janitor sitting alone in his truck. He starts freezing after he takes all his clothes off. After an animated sequence of the same ice cream parlour that young Jake and his girlfriend had been to, he sees an animated pig, who takes him back inside the school.

In the next scene, we find an older version of Jake surrounded by everyone he has known in his life as he accepts a Nobel prize, finally redeeming himself. After giving his acceptance speech, he starts singing a song. When the song ends, we see the janitor’s car buried in snow outside the school indicating that this ‘prize ceremony’ was also his imagination, and he probably died of hypothermia, alone, in the cold weather outside.

What does ‘ I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ signify?

The movie was an interesting take at the lives of more people like the janitor, who have dreams and ambitions their entire life, but can never fulfil them due to some reason or the other. The lives his dreams through his imagination, while sweeping the dirty corridors of the school. He dies alone, in the snow, which is also hinted when his imaginary girlfriend wonders about dying of hypothermia when Jake leaves her in the car. She leaves the car, goes back into the school and never returns. This parallels with the janitor’s imagination, when he follows the pig, infested with maggots, like the one his father tells him to put down, back at his farm.