‘Endings, Beginnings’ review: A girl tries to figure out her life, and does a messy job of it

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Endings, Beginnings review: Shailene Woodley as Daphne and Sebastian Stan as Frank in Endings, Beginnings
Shailene Woodley as Daphne and Sebastian Stan as Frank in Endings, Beginnings

Movie synopsis

30-something year old Daphne (Shailene Woodley) recently quit her job, broke up with her longtime boyfriend, and is living in her sister’s pool house while she figures out what she wants in life. She meets two men at a party, and begins dating both of them separately. One of them is wild and utterly sexy Frank (Sebastian Stan), the other is steady professor Jack (Jamie Dornan) — and both happen to be best friends. Her messy choices during this period bring unintended consequences.

Endings, Beginnings review in a nutshell

Who knew one shouldn’t get into love triangles while figuring out your life? ? You’ll definitely wonder what this girl is thinking. (Or not thinking, as it turns out.) But once you get over being judgey, there’s plenty to relate to — maybe not her situation, or the decisions that she makes, but how she goes about making them.

Would I recommend you watch it?

It depends on what you want to watch the movie for. I watched it because of Sebastian Stan, so I got what I came for, even though I had to suffer through Daphne’s banal interactions with other people in the process. (Sebastian Stan is SEX ON A STICK in this movie, so if you’re into that, you should totally watch this movie. I found Jamie Dornan and Shailene Woodley’s relationship dull.)

Plus, the movie made me think about how messy we are as human beings, sometimes doing things and making choices that we know we shouldn’t for no other reason than we felt like it. If you like to think about such things, Endings, Beginnings might be for you.

Click here to jump to the bottom for where you can watch Endings, Beginnings. (Warning: The movie contains explicit sex scenes.)

Otherwise, continue reading for a full, spoiler-filled review.

Full review of Endings, Beginnings (with spoilers for the entire movie! I tell you how it ends!)

Endings, Beginnings is a film that I heard about and was only drawn to because of Sebastian Stan, whom I adore as Bucky/the Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He looked very sexy in the trailer, that’s all I can say. I certainly didn’t watch it for its scintillating plot, because it doesn’t have one. (A boring plot, yes. Scintillating? No.)

It has really hot sex scenes with Sebastian Stan, so if you’re uncomfortable with that, this movie is not for you. It would be rated R21 for Sexual Scenes in Singapore if it ever showed here (which I doubt, cause it’s not the type of film to draw a sizeable local audience, so whoever brings it in will likely do so at a loss). There are sex scenes with Jamie Dornan too, but those are less steamy, despite him being the star of the Fifty Shades films.

Watch this trailer and tell me TO MY FACE that Sebastian Stan isn’t SEX ON A PINEAPPLE STICK.

My immediate thoughts while watching the movie were “WHAT is this girl DOING?” It starts off with her moving into her sister’s pool house, and we find out she’s recently quit her job and her boyfriend for what seems like no reason. She decides to go on a six-month sabbatical from romantic relationships and alcohol while she figures herself out and looks for a new job. She’s a curator? Or something. It’s one of those artsy-fartsy jobs that don’t seem to be in much demand, so she’s not having any luck on the job front. Her friend offers to have her pick up shifts in her clothing store for cash.

Then, she meets two guys at a party in her sister’s house. The first, Frank, is an intriguing wildcard who flirts with her by talking nonsense. The second, Jack, is a professor she met before and they have an “intellectual” conversation. After the party, Frank gets her number and texts her in the same nonsensical vein that they’ve established. Separately, Jack finds out where she’s temping and also asks her out, where they talk more “deep stuff”.

Jamie Dornan as Jack and Shailene Woodley as Daphne at the party in her sister's house in Endings, Beginnings
Jamie Dornan as Jack and Shailene Woodley as Daphne in Endings, Beginnings

For reasons that I cannot fathom and the movie never makes clear, because Daphne really isn’t an interesting person from what I can see, both guys are so inexplicably enamoured with her that we (and she) soon find out from Frank that both guys are best friends. And in that same conversation where she finds out that both guys are best friends and she says that she doesn’t want to come between them, she breaks her romantic-relationships-and-alcohol sabbatical and sleeps with Frank, and then lies about it the next day to Jack, while agreeing to explore a relationship with him. She does stop texting Frank for a while, but when they start again, she sends him a “Been thinking about you alot” message that he reads but doesn’t reply. And when they meet at a friend’s gathering, their looks are filled with unspoken tension that Jack seems to pick up on and is disquieted by, but Daphne continues pretending nothing happened between her and Frank.

On a weekend when Jack is away at a conference, Frank visits her and the both of them are so drawn to each other that they have sex right on the floor. He persuades her to go on a spontaneous road trip with him, one fueled by make out sessions and car sex, to visit some musician friends of his. However, the passionate trip turns sour when he leaves her alone to hang out with a bunch of people she doesn’t know while he snorts coke with his friend in another room. On the way back the next day, Frank peeks into her journal while she’s in a gas station and sees drawings that show she still wants to be with Jack, thus causing him to grow disillusioned with her.

Sebastian Stan as Frank
Frank does seem kind of lonely and melancholy in the movie. He’s not just a hot bod to be used, you know.

I’ve read other people’s comments that she isn’t a relatable character; firstly because she has the privilege of being a white girl who can stay unemployed for months and crash with her sister (though her unemployed state causes friction between her sister and her brother-in-law so she eventually gets her own place and moves out), and secondly because of the cheating. Apparently these commenters really hate cheaters. I mean, I don’t support cheating either, but it doesn’t hit home as hard for me as it does for these people who seem to be personally affronted.

Mostly, I was just very annoyed at Daphne and her inability to make sensible decisions. She didn’t want to come between the two guys’ friendship, and yet, here she is, lying to Jack and two-timing him. She likes how steady and intelligent Jack is with his academic job, but she also can’t resist Frank. Like, can you make up your mind? Eventually, when all her messy actions come back to bite her in the ass, she says that she’s tired of hurting people, but it’s too late. Maybe she should have thought about that before doing all these things?

Daphne (Shailene Woodley) and Jack (Sebastian Stan) on their steamy road trip to Big Sur
Daphne and Jack on their steamy road trip to Big Sur

I don’t get these two men and their obsession with her either. Why are they so attracted to her??? She doesn’t do or say anything particularly witty or worth taking note of (on screen, at least). She just seems… bland.

Obviously, her inability to make sensible decisions during this period causes unintended consequences (re: she gets pregnant). Jack was very clear from the start that he doesn’t want kids, and he wants to move to Italy to further his career, so obviously he’s not pleased that she cheated on him and the baby might not be his. Frank ghosted her after their weekend trip, so no help from that quarter when she’s trying to decide what to do with the baby.

Jamie Dornan and Shailene Woodley in Endings, Beginnings
While I found Jack and Daphne’s relationship dull, he really didn’t deserve her flakiness. :S

In the end, Daphne chooses to keep the baby without expecting support from either men. She and Jack end their relationship and Jack presumably goes off to Italy as he planned. Months later, she meets Frank again, who has a new girlfriend in tow. They talk, and he seems more open to being a father, but since she doesn’t know who the father is, he doesn’t appear ready to take responsibility for a child that might not be his, and looks relieved that she isn’t asking him to.

Does Daphne figure out her life? Maybe. While the movie leaves the ending open with her preparing for the arrival of the baby, it tries to wrap things up nicely with her musing: “Everything might not be okay. But that’s ok. You’re exactly where you need to be. You’re loved.”

To be honest, I think it sounds like drivel. It’s something you tell yourself when you haven’t figured your shit out, and you need to be okay with being in that state where you haven’t figured your shit out. Which is exactly what she’s doing.

However, she has taken on the baby as her own responsibility, which is the one decision in this entire movie that she has actually thought through before going ahead with it. She’s lucky enough to have a support system too — her mother willing to be involved if she needs help, her sister having a baby at around the same time. (Good thing too, cause Daphne still doesn’t appear to have found a job.)

Shailene Woodley as Daphne
Daphne at peace with herself near the end of Endings, Beginnings

I read that Drake Doremus, the director, has this way of making films in which he’ll come up with an outline of the script and where the story is supposed to go, but he’ll let the actors improvise their lines and their actions. So the actors really are reacting to each other, not knowing exactly what they’re going to say or do, like a real life interaction between people in those situations.

Unfortunately, this means that what they say occasionally sounds inane. Then again, human beings say inane things while making conversation and trying to find things to talk about. Inane things don’t make for great movies though.

So yes, I was very judgey when I first saw the movie.

Shailene Woodley, Drake Doremus and Sebastian Stan behind the scenes of Endings, Beginnings
Shailene Woodley, Drake Doremus and Sebastian Stan behind the scenes of Endings, Beginnings

BUT, after I had time to reflect on the movie, I thought a bit more of how she came to do what she did, and I realise that the process she goes through in making these decisions, messed up as they are, is not so unrelatable.

I, too, have felt uncertainty. I, too, have times where I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. (Doesn’t everybody?) Heck, maybe if for some unknown reason I was suddenly very desired by two hot men, the hotter one looking like Sebastian Stan and actively pursuing me despite me being in a relationship with his best friend, I might have been tempted to cheat too. I don’t think I would, but never say never. I sure have made some pretty dumb decisions that I knew at the moment I was making them that they were using-a-fork-to-drink-soup stupid, but I still made them anyway, because that was what I wanted to do in that moment. Human beings have very self-destructive tendencies, and our better natures don’t always win (if they do at all).

Sebastian Stan and Shailene Woodley
I mean, look at this guy with his soulful, melancholy eyes. Would I really resist him if he came to my door and stared at me longingly? I don’t know.

In the same vein, these are very ordinary characters, going through very ordinary lives, experiencing things as humans do, making mistakes along the way as we all do. Whatever lessons we gleam from these mistakes are up to us. Even if the lesson was “Damn it, this thing was bad! I shouldn’t have done this thing!”, it’s too late to regret it, so the only thing we can do is move on and be at peace with whatever consequences we end up with. Which is how this movie ends.

Shailene Woodley as Daphne in Endings, Beginnings
Shailene Woodley as Daphne in Endings, Beginnings

Near the end, we find out that her haphazard journey to find herself was triggered by her ex-boss possibly raping her after a night of hard partying with her colleagues. (She isn’t entirely sure, cause she blacked out, but all signs point to yes.) That would cause a lot of people to do some soul searching to see how things ended up like that, and try to make a new start too.

I didn’t understand Frank or Jack’s obsession with Daphne, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been so unforgiving. Not everybody is as accomplished or interesting as Amal Clooney, and we all have different standards. And yet we’re all still living and having partners and getting married (and for some, cheating on their partners with other people), etc. If everyone waited for a Julia Roberts or Chris Evans to turn up in their lives, the world’s population would shrivel up in a blink.

So why is the movie called Endings, Beginnings? Probably because Daphne makes an ending to her old life and makes a new beginning, twice. First when she quits the job she likes and her stable, loving boyfriend to go figure out her life (unsuccessfully). And then when she gives up her old life when her relationships don’t work out and she deals with becoming a mother. We’re left with hope that this new beginning will turn out better for her. It better. There’s a baby involved now.

Where to watch Endings, Beginnings

Endings, Beginnings was meant to open in U.S. cinemas on 1 May, but because of COVID-19, it was released on digital and VOD instead.

Streaming services: Endings, Beginnings is not on Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or any other streaming service.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNOW

How to watch Endings, Beginnings if you’re not in the U.S.

The rental/purchase links above aren’t for international viewers, so if you’re in Singapore and you really want to watch the movie, you’ll need a VPN if you don’t already have one. ? I’m using NordVPN, which costs US$125.64 for 3 years. It’s even cheaper if you have a Shopback or Rakuten account (formerly known as Ebates) and activate your cashback before your purchase.

You may also need a credit/debit card issued by a U.S. financial institution. If you don’t have one, you can search heaven and earth for someone who has one. Or, you can use your VPN to get the movie through other ways that people use VPNs for. Whatever you do is up to you, as we’ve just seen in this movie. ?

If you can’t/don’t want to do the above, and you really, REALLY want to support the filmmakers by paying WAY BEYOND what I think you reasonably should, you can buy the DVD from Amazon instead. That’s the one thing that Amazon is happy to take your money for — the shipping fees alone are more than the cost of the DVD — and won’t require you to have a U.S.-issued credit card. (Cause heaven forbid if you want to rent the movie on Amazon Prime Video with your non U.S.-issued credit card. Like, HOW DARE YOU even try to give them money in a way that’s beneficial and convenient for you. ?)

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