The movies that Netflix makes run the gamut from conventional to outlandish and strange, and I'm Thinking of Ending Things from writer and director Charlie Kaufman lands firmly in the second category.
The movie, which tells the strange story of one woman's journey to meet her boyfriend's parents, is perplexing in every sense and includes the lengthy recitation of a poem that many viewers had questions about.
What is 'Bonedog', the poem in 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things', about?
The poem that's featured in the movie is called "Bonedog", and it's by a poet named Eva H.D. Jessie Buckley's female protagonist recites the poem in the movie, claiming that she's written it herself.
Later on in the story, though, we discover that the poem is actually part of a book of poetry that her boyfriend Jake owns. Like much of the film, the poem focuses on how it feels to be lonely.
"Bonedog" features lines like "Coming home is terribly lonely so that you think of the oppressive barometric pressure back where you have just come from with fondness because everything’s worse once you’re home." It describes the feeling of being alone, whether there are people around you or not. In its way, the poem illuminates the loneliness of living with only your own thoughts.
'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' is about knowing other people.
The poem reinforces the notion at the center of the movie that it's impossible to know another person the way you know yourself. As the movie suggests, it's impossible to know another person's thoughts, and so although you may think you know someone, you never really can. "Bonedog" is about that loneliness, and about how dreary it can be to live with the repetition of a normal life.
Although there's plenty of beauty in I'm Thinking of Ending Things, the movie is also deliberately confusing. It's a puzzle where you feel like you must be missing a few pieces. In spite of the movie's general inscrutability, though, it's possible to grasp the ideas the movie plays with, including the loneliness described in "Bonedog."
'Bonedog' isn't the only thing referenced in 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'.
In addition to "Bonedog", Charlie Kaufman also packs in a number of other references to a variety of art forms. Jessie Buckley's character recites large sections from Pauline Kael's review of A Woman Under the Influence, and there are also a number of references to Oklahoma! scattered throughout the film. All of these combine to make the viewer feel delirious and the effect may be off-putting to some people looking for something more conventional.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things has already been interpreted in a number of ways, but one of the most common interpretations is that like the book it's based on, this story takes place inside the head of a lonely janitor who we see throughout the film. If that's the case, then "Bonedog" only reinforces that man's loneliness and his feelings of hopelessness as he goes about his life.
Like the other references in the film, the poem is just something that the janitor read and enjoyed. It's trapped in his head, just like every other character in the film.