Netflix’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things: full explanation of confusing film

Netflix’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things has been admired and despaired of in equal measure since landing on the streaming service in early September, and for good reason. 

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The film is based on a young woman, possibly named Lucy, who is considering ending her relationship with her boyfriend of six weeks, Jake, while travelling to meet his parents. The meeting results in strange encounters where Lucy sees his parents at every stage of their lives, sees a pet dog continuously shake his fur, and herself seems to change her name and job profession in every conversation. 

Lucy thinks she sees a picture of herself on the wall

Things only get stranger from there. Leaving the house, Lucy and Jake go to get ice cream, and after Jake frets over the leftovers getting the car sticky, they go to his old high school to throw them away. Jake disappears inside the school, leading Lucy to go looking for him. The story is interspersed with an old janitor going about his day-to-day job at the high school who encounters Lucy, saying he didn’t know where her boyfriend was but is later seen pulling off his clothes and hallucinates seeing an animated pig, who tells him to follow him through the school.  

Who is the janitor? Why are the parents aging? Who is Jake?

One ballet dance routine, musical number and speech from A Beautiful Mind later, the film ends. So, we have to ask, what on earth was it all about? We have put together an explanation here… 

In the film, Lucy doesn’t exist. Or, at least, she does exists as someone who Jake knew decades earlier, but was too shy to speak to during a trivia night – something Lucy admits to the janitor (but, let’s face it, who knew what was real and what wasn’t by that point). Instead, he invents a relationship with her, which explains why her name, occupation and the story of how they first met rapidly changes throughout the film as he tries to imagine her. 

The story follows Jake as he takes his girlfriend to visit his parents

Similarly, when Lucy is certain she’s seen a photograph of herself on the wall and it’s actually of Jake, this makes sense as they are both the same person. 

Jake – who is the old janitor seen throughout the film – lives through his memories, and so sees his parents in every stage of their lives as he remembers them, now long gone. The ballet dance shows, once again, an imagined romance with Lucy which follows the storyline of Oklahoma!, the musical, that the teenagers at his school were seen rehearsing earlier in the film. 

Jake is remembering his parents at different stages of their lives

His final speech, being from A Beautiful Mind, also hints at how he is imagining his life through the literature, TV shows and movies which are referenced throughout the film during Lucy and Jake’s long conversations. 

The constant line, ‘I’m thinking of ending things’, while we were meant to believe was about whether Lucy wanted to end things with her boyfriend, was actually about Jake ending his own life. 

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