Review by Sean Boelman
The newest film from divisive filmmaker Drake Doremus (Like Crazy), Endings, Beginnings is a new indie romance that continues in the director’s trend of making movies that are as confused as their protagonists. Yet even though the film is a narrative mess, this manages to be some of Doremus’s most entertaining work because of strong performances.
The movie follows a woman in her thirties as she finds herself emotionally conflicted when she gets involved in complicated relationships with two men who are close friends. Ultimately, the arc is a pretty conventional love triangle, but Doremus chops it up so aggressively that it ends up feeling unique, for better or worse.
Perhaps the most off-putting thing about the film is that it is little more than a series of scenes from the central relationships. Eventually, Doremus does find his rhythm, but it takes him a while to get there, the first thirty minutes feeling particularly uneven and hectic. As is the case with many movies with similarly episodic narratives, there are some segments that are clearly more effective than others.
As always, Doremus uses the film to comment on the ways in which people can learn from love and heartbreak, but at this point, it feels like he has already made his point. Unfortunately, many of his movies have started to feel too similar to each other because they are all thematically related and offer so little expansion upon each other.
The character development in the film is also frustrating. A love triangle is a relatively common set-up in terms of character development, but seemingly in an attempt to make his movie feel different, Doremus doesn’t do a good job of making it feel balanced. As a result, viewers likely won’t care in one way or the other how this relationship turns out.
That said, the actors are very much able to keep this film afloat. It is worth watching if only to see the strong performances from Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan, and Sebastian Stan. Obviously, Woodley is the dominant force here, with a majority of the movie’s emotional substance, but Dornan and Stan both get their chances to shine.
Doremus’s film is also somewhat intriguing stylistically. While there are some things that don’t work, like the hectic editing associated with the narrative structure, there is a lot of ambition on display that is worthy of note. The use of color in the movie to build mood is especially interesting and effective.
Endings, Beginnings likely won’t win any new converts for a filmmaker whose work isn’t universally beloved, but for those who are able to get on his brainwave, it’s a passable watch. Sadly the great actors in the film are in danger of being buried by a mediocre script.
Endings, Beginnings hits VOD on April 17.