We’ve all been there. There has been some point in our ’20s or ’30s when we realize that life has been passing us by. Through it all, we’ve just been going along for the ride. In Drake Doremus’ latest film–Endings, Beginnings, Shailene Woodley stars as Daphne, a 30-something woman who hurls the grenade right into the middle of her life.
In the space of a week–Daphne quits the job that she loves, breaks up with her loving boyfriend and moves into her older sister’s (Lindsay Sloane) pool house. The only one that seems to be thrilled by her presence is her young niece. Determined to get her life in some semblance of order–Daphne swears off men and alcohol for six months. However, as well all know-when we try to banish the things that trigger us, they seem to appear in the most fascinating packages.
From the moment the film opens, something is clearly haunting Daphne. Doremus gives his audiences rapid flashbacks of some horrific event in the near distance that she refuses to dwell on. Instead–Daphne’s focus shifts towards two men–Frank (Sebastian Stan), a rugged bad-boy that appears at her sister’s New Year Eve’s party–manifesting like a phantom out of some romance novel. Intriguing and kind of off-putting, Daphne can’t help but be swept up in Frank’s hurricane. It’s interesting that she seems to know from the outset that she’s going to be pulverized when all is said and done. Yet, against her better judgment, she forges ahead.
But Frank isn’t the only man to capture Daphne’s attention. The complete opposite of Frank’s devil-may-care personality–Jack (Jamie Dornan) is a stable novelist who is worldly, well-read, and gentle with Daphne’s fragile emotions. He seems to be the “perfect” man. However, still working through past traumas and the instability of her childhood, Daphne can’t seem to pull away from Frank. But the universe has its way of bringing us all to our knees.
As Daphne struggles to juggle both men, what ensues is a gloomy trainwreck of self-sabotage. Holding it all together is the fiery chemistry between the three leads as the throughline throughout. It’s a frustrating journey. Just when the audience thinks Daphne is ready to pull herself out of her stupor and reach out for help-she doubles down on her choices. This not to say that Daphne isn’t allowed to be unlikeable, or stand firmly in the mess that she has created. However, after watching her lie to the people who care about her most, or make willfully careless choices–the audience is left to flounder. As the film presses forward, we desperately search for a reason to sympathize with her or relate to her at all. This becomes especially heightened when Frank’s behavior becomes increasingly strange and manic.
Still, the thing that holds Endings, Beginnings together is Woodley. Though Doremus holds out in revealing Daphne’s past trauma for far-too-long–Woodley keeps our eyes turned towards the screen. Instead of a biting assessment on modern-day love, Endings, Beginnings plays out like a cautionary tale of recklessness and a rejection of maturity. For people who often feel helpless, lost and confused– but are doing the work in the face of it and refusing to be hurtful and cruel to others–Endings, Beginnings is simply extremely hard to relate to.
Endings, Beginning debuted Sept. 8 at the Toronto International Film Festival.