Blog Post

The Four Throughlines of I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Oct 26th, 2020

The key to writing a complete story, even one as ephemeral and disassociative as Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, is to write with the Four Throughlines in mind.

In an effort to clarify this concept for visual learners, I published this three-minute walkthrough:

Specific Four Throughlines Analysis

In I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the context for our narrative exploration is that of a lonely, old man entering the beginning stages of dementia. His problematic Mind sets the stage for the Objective Story Throughline. While subjective points-of-view shift and alter throughout the experience, stepping out we see that the cast represents different facets of Jake the janitor’s ailing mind.

The Young Woman, referred to as Lucy, Louisa, and Ames is the conceptualization of Jake the janitor’s ideal woman. This Psychological impression strikes discord with the Audience as it assumes the Main Character Throughline position. We see events unfold from Lucy’s point-of-view, yet we fail to sit within her: she doesn’t even exist. This unusual alignment of perspectives explains why many find the film difficult to absorb. The positioning of Throughlines grants is a dysfunctional out-of-body experience—what it must feel like, I assume, to witness inequity from within a deteriorating mind.

Young Jake, the Jake who lived Jake the Janitor’s life, assumes the Influence Character Throughline—yet another source of distancing through separation of self. Young Jake takes us on a road trip to meet his parents, refuses to let us see what’s in the basement, and drives us through dangerous icy conditions: all illustrations of problematic Physics that challenge the Young Woman to reconsider her justifications for ending things.

Lucy and her counterparts are the one that got away. The lack of a definable relationship that happened is the Relationship Story Throughline of this narrative. They met by fate, shared information, then moved on—never to see each other again. The Universe brought the two in near each other, only to see them fail to make that connection.

At the end of the film, Jake assumes the Main Character Throughline (with a tip of the hat to Cassevetes and A Woman Under the Influence). For a moment, our subjectivity assumes its natural position and we, as Jake, recast the validations and judgments of those we remember.

Only then can we step back out and look upon ourselves encased within a snow-covered tomb.