Bad breakups, toxic behaviour and fear of your own thoughts, that’s exactly what Daphne (Shailene Woodley – Big Little Lies) is dealing with in ‘Endings, Beginnings‘. Living in her sister’s guesthouse, she regularly witnesses her sibling and her brother-in-law fighting, which not only aggravates Daphne’s growing despair regarding long-term love, but on top of that makes her decide to take a “dating sabbatical”. Not long after, at one of her sister’s parties, Daphne gets caught in a love triangle with a free-spirited bad boy (Sebastian Stan – Avengers: Endgame) and his more stable, scholarly best friend (Jamie Dornan – Fifty Shades Freed). Unable to choose between these almost polar opposites, Daphne finds herself bouncing between them instead, enjoying the distinct ways each man sees her. Life on the other hand has a way of making decisions for her, even when she’s not ready for them.
Drake Doremus‘ newest film, tackles one of his favourite subjects – love. He’s proven before with films such as Like Crazy, Equals and Zoe, he can fully develop an on screen-relationship with the right script, but this time something’s missing. It’s not so much Doremus and co-writer Jardine Libaire‘s (this is her first script) basic writing, but more the lack of taking it all to a more sophisticated level. The story is realistic, with real life problems some of us deal with on a daily basis, but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen in hundreds of other series and films. That’s where the cast comes in to somehow convince us to keep watching.
One thing that really works is every single scene Woodley and Dornan share. There’s a natural chemistry and on screen connection that makes both of them likable, even though Woodley’s character in the film is quite insufferable because of her messy way of dealing with life. It becomes clear from the very start, she’s stuck in old habits and self-destructing rapidly. Dornan surprises in both romantic and dramatic scenes, quickly stealing Woodley’s spotlight in the film. Stan, as the other love interest, does a fine job, but isn’t believable as a gas-lighting junkie. Too clean, too polished, and gives more of a rich-kid-gone-rebel-vibe.
The problem with Endings, Beginnings mostly lies with the technical aspects of the film. There’s clear signs of sloppy editing in which dialogues get cut mid-sentence, which becomes distracting quite early on. The way everything is shot also makes you feel like you shouldn’t be witnessing all of this. Most of the actors are being shown in profile close ups, or as if you’re standing behind them looking down on them. When we do get some sort of a wider shot at a party or a situation on the street, it gets shown from behind a window and from a distance, disconnecting with the viewer and making intimate moments feel very cold (which already happens because of its colder colour palette) and voyeuristic. When Doremus then also decides to include on screen text messages in bright neon brush stroke-style, it almost feels as if you’re watching a cheesy young adult novel that has been adapted to film.
Endings, Beginnings is easily Doremus’ weakest project to date. Most of the cast tries their best to sell their on screen dilemmas, but the film itself is one bitter pill to swallow.
Available to rent via Foxtel Store from May 23
Available to rent On Demand from July 15 via Google Play, iTunes, Fetch TV, Telstra Bigpond, Sony (Playstation Network), Microsoft & Quickflix
Review – ‘Endings, Beginnings’
Reviewed online, May 22, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 110 min.
PRODUCTION: A Rialto Distribution release of a CJ Entertainment, Protagonist Pictures production. Producers: Francis Chung, Drake Doremus, Robert George, Tae-sung Jeong. Executive producer: Jerry Ko.
CREW: Director: Drake Doremus. Screenplay: Jardine Libaire, Drake Doremus. Camera: Marianne Bakke. Editors: Garret Price. Music: Philip Ekström.
WITH: Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan, Sebastian Stan, Matthew Gray Gubler, Lindsay Sloane, Shamier Anderson, Sherry Cola, Wendie Malick, Kyra Sedgwick, Janice LeAnn Brown.