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Endings, Beginnings | Review

Some Other Beginning’s End: Doremus Continues on the Battlefield of Love

Drake Doremus Endings, Begininings Movie ReviewLove is hardly a many splendored thing in the filmography of Drake Doremus, who has been examining the tempestuous, oft-awkward romantic inclinations of nubile young characters, both human and not, since his humble beginnings as an indie filmmaker. With his ninth feature, Endings, Beginnings, Doremus creates a sort-of triangulated inverse of his celebrated 2011 breakout Like Crazy. Whereas that film dealt with aggravated propinquity, his latest, co-written by first-time scribe Jardine Libaire, examines the trauma and resulting irresponsibility of a thirtysomething privileged white woman attempting to overcome her malaise by attempting to reclaim the nostalgic drift of her twenties.

Authentically staged, which is perhaps thanks to some moderate improvisation from its principal cast, not to mention a frustrating and complex performance from lead Shailene Woodley, it can perhaps be recognized as a return to form for Doremus by some even as it’s another vehicle with which he examines the continually confounding façade of what love, commitment and adulthood are supposed to look like in a world of ever-changing standards.

Daphne (Woodley) finds herself suddenly adrift. An incident at work has forced her to leave unexpectedly, and she’s also left behind her long-term boyfriend (Matthew Gray Gubler) of several years. Moving into her sister’s (Lindsay Sloane) guest house, she meets responsible author Jack (Jamie Dornan) and flirtatious, unpredictable Frank (Sebastian Stan) at a soiree. Both men are attracted to Daphne and she to them, albeit for different reasons. Conversations turn to flirtation and she discovers both men are quite good friends. While a traditional relationship buds with Jack, she’s unable to turn away from Frank’s aggressive sexual advances. Being with both of them allows her to examine a complete spectrum of her personality, but eventually, reality comes crashing down.

Woodley pulls an almost impossible feat through her character’s transformative arch, initially an aggravatingly nondescript persona involved in a fantasy pulp love affair who eventually finds a path to potential self-actualization. On the other hand, Endings, Beginnings attempts to wrap her future prospects into too neat of a package, and one wishes there had been some more diverse, even subversive avenues of recourse for her character’s self-acceptance by self-sacrifice through motherhood. A number of supportive women in her life, including her distant mother (a welcome Wendie Malick) and her increasingly annoyed sister never get to experience the poignant moments shared with her oldest pal, a graceful Kyra Sedgwick.

The attraction Jack and Frank experience for Daphne, which perhaps the audience is better situated to interpret than their love object, isn’t examined at great length by any of the characters but the scenario is presented in such a way to suggest perhaps we are most attracted to people who, due to circumstance or situation, are simply unattainable—a sort of last stand in temptation as taboo. At the same time, Daphne’s waffling is incredibly plausible, her irresponsibility a characteristic of the immaturity we all must navigate, whether or not one is privy to the same safety nets she’s afforded. The trauma she must reconcile due to a sexual assault from her old boss almost seems too great a narrative crutch, an excuse to forgive the emotional turmoil she’s transported to others. But then again, Daphne, as presented, is an example of how hurt people hurt people.

Something of a mixture of the prominent themes of Like Crazy and the hetero hook-up culture expo Newness (2017), a film which can perhaps best be appreciated as a pertinent time capsule, Endings, Beginnings maybe/perhaps/finally brings Doremus’ legacy of unrequited love to the conclusion we all must come to—the person one needs to love the most is one’s self.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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