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Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis try to get through a daunting dinner.

It doesn't get any easier to review or understand or even think clearly about movies written by - better yet, written and directed by - Charlie Kaufman. The former include "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation.", and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." In the latter camp is "Synecdoche, New York." But they're always a trip to watch.

Now Kaufman has directed and adapted a film based on the 2016 Iain Reid novel "I'm Thinking of Ending Things." Let's get right to that title: It's not about suicide; it's about a relationship, one that's only a few weeks old, between 30-somethings Jake (Jesse Plemons) and ... well, in the book, her name is never revealed, but in the film she's called, at different times, Lucy and Lucia and Louisa (Jessie Buckley).

It's at the beginning, when they jump in his car and head out to visit his parents at their isolated farmhouse that we first hear Lucy utter that uncertain thought. But we hear it only in her head, a moment in a stream of babbling inner narration. Yet Jake, behind the wheel, asks, "Did you say something?"

No, she didn't. Not out loud. But before long, they're both talking, seemingly just for the sake of talking, during the drive. Though she keeps drifting back inside her own head while he goes on and on about, say the greatness of William Wordsworth who, she says, she's never heard of.

Soon Jake persuades Lucy to recite one of her original poems (Ah, she's a poet - who doesn't know Wordsworth), which she does (actually the rambling words of poet Eva H.D.). Then there's more bland chatter between them, her cell phone rings (Wait, is that her own name listed as the caller?), and to spice things up, the scene cuts to an older man watching TV ("Peabody's Improbable History"), then buffing the hallway of what looks like a high school.

A light snowfall gets heavier, thoughts in her head continue, Jake mentions that "road trips are good to remind yourself that the world's larger than the inside of your own head," and they arrive at the farm.

Make that the dark and dreary farm, where Jake's parents (David Thewlis and Toni Collette) take their sweet time before saying hello, Jake doesn't appear to be very happy in their company, and Lucy, upset after a visit to the barn, doesn't know what the heck is going on.

Kaufman's film quietly exudes a weirdness that includes friendly but ear-flapping Jimmy the dog (who is not in the book), the unnerving fact that there's very little incidental music - but music coming from a radio and a record player is identical - the obvious discord between Jake and his parents, the news that Lucy is a landscape painter (Hold on, isn't she a poet?), and more perplexing cuts over to the maintenance guy at the high school.

Things get very strange on every floor of that house. People appear and disappear and grow older, there's a small urn with the name Jimmy on it, Lucy's phone rings, and this time the call is from Yvonne - a character who's in a film within the film (Just what this film needs!). By the time David Thewlis profoundly and brilliantly regresses his character into dementia, Jake and Lucy are ready to jump in the car for the ride home through what's become a blizzard, at which point she says - to herself - "I feel uncertain about a lot of what happened tonight."

But she has no idea what's in store during the return drive. Let's see, that includes her lengthy discussion of the film "A Woman Under the Influence" (actually a recitation of Pauline Kael's review of the film) and a side trip to Jake's old high school (you'll already be familiar with the hallway) where the plot as well as the film kind of go off the rails with the assistance of some themes and songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!"

Things get even more peculiar, moving on from the creepiness of Reid's book to settle (un)comfortably in Kaufman territory, with Jessie Buckley ("Wild Rose," "Judy") impressively handling the bulk of the heavy lifting.

Does the ending make sense? Do most of the things leading up to it make sense? Does it really matter? Just go with this: "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" is a haunting, haunted movie.

"I'm Thinking of Ending Things" premieres on Netflix on Sept. 4.

Ed Symkus can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

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