Endings, Beginnings: Film Review

Endings, Beginnings

I love to watch Shailene Woodley onscreen so I was excited to see her mostly improvised performance in Drake Doremus‘ latest – Endings, Beginnings – and while she excels in the conflicted role, the movie as a whole was a bit of a disappointment.

The film follows Daphne (Woodley), who finds herself at a crossroads in life and decides to dump her boyfriend of four years and quit a job she loves. She vows to quit booze and dating for six months to help her gain clarity and figure out what she wants from life, but her willpower crumbles when she meets Frank (Sebastian Stan) and Jack (Jamie Dornan) at a party. Despite her not wanting to put a wedge between longtime friends, Daphne can’t resist getting involved with them both.

I really liked the first half of this movie. I was interested in Daphne’s story, the set-up of her relationships with these two friends and their romantic encounters, but then the plot takes a turn I wasn’t expecting and I felt let down by the direction it went in. After this moment, I lost some interest in her story and felt ready for it to reach its conclusion but it takes a while to get there. The narrative is pretty loosely structured, super slow-paced, and a touch too long.

Doremus is a big fan of short cuts that offer up little snippets of Daphne’s life and glimpses of flashbacks to help give us a fuller picture of Daphne’s background, and this was frustrating at times, so I liked it best when the movie settled into a juicy dialogue scene and stuck with it, rather than intercutting with other footage. The dialogue scenes were where the film excelled – I loved watching Daphne’s conversations with Frank and Jack, as well as her sister Billie (Lindsay Sloane) and her mother Sue (Wendie Malick). It helps that they were mostly improvised as they often felt raw and realistic and I was drawn into them.

I know the movie is all about Daphne and her journey to find herself, but I would have liked to know more about Frank and Jack too. You get the basic idea of them – Frank appeals to Daphne’s sexual, passionate, free-spirited side, while Jack appeals to her more sensitive and intellectual side – but no clue of who they are in any meaningful way. Despite these shortcomings, the three central performances are superb, with them all committing to their respective roles. Woodley, in particular, stood out for me. I’ve always thought she was a terrific actress and I think this showcases her abilities well, although she is let down by the material.

Endings, Beginnings starts off strong, presenting us with this moral dilemma – who would you pick? – before abandoning this central premise and going in a direction much less intriguing.

Available on Digital HD from Friday 7th August

Rating: 3.5/5

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