The latest film from director Drake Doremus (Like Crazy, Equals) has finally arrived, and it provides an important glimpse into the imperfections of love and relationships, the mistakes we make, and the things we learn and find along the way.
Written by Doremus and Jardine Libaire, the romantic drama Endings, Beginnings follows the story of Daphne (Shailene Woodley), a thirtysomething woman reeling from a recent break up with her ex-boyfriend of four years, Adrian (Matthew Gray Gubler). Having also just quit her job, Daphne finds herself both mentally and physically displaced as she resorts to temporarily living with her much more stable sister Billie (Lindsay Sloane).
The combined effort of glimpses of flashbacks, somber music, and Woodley’s strong acting skills convey the depth of Daphne’s struggle; her pain is palpable as she attempts to reconcile where she is and who she has become. In an effort to get her life back on track, Daphne decides that taking sex and drinking off the table for a little while is in her best interests, meanwhile she continues treading water as she tries and fails to find a new job.
Her plans to avoid relationships are derailed, twofold, when she meets Frank (Sebastian Stan) and reconnects with Jack (Jamie Dornan) at her sister’s New Year’s Eve party. A tangled web of feelings stretches out in opposing directions as our lead finds herself stuck at the intersection that shook the core of her last failed relationship — stability versus passion. Whereas Jack is a reliable and intelligent man with a blossoming academic career that offers Daphne a casual yet stable domesticity (cooking dinner together and the like), Frank — the free-spirited bad boy — is full of temptation and spontaneity, and the two of them end up doing things far more scandalous on the kitchen counter than cooking.
Woodley’s character is complicated and imperfect, and she portrays this struggle an impressively relatable way. And Stan’s performance as Frank is one that will not soon be forgotten; his deep gazes and meaningful glances, paired with the line he wavered on as he delivered flirtatious quips followed by stirring and emotional dialogue, make it easy to understand why Daphne couldn’t resist (and really, we don’t blame her). Dornan plays a strong polar opposite to Frank in Jack, offering a strong, mature foothold (and Irish charm) in contrast to the soft (and tempting) yet unreliable edges of Frank.
The film eventually reaches a point where Daphne finds herself forced to make a life-changing decision, one that leads to much needed reconciliation with her mother, something special to share with her sister, and a newfound love for herself. The turmoil born from Daphne’s earlier choices still stings, and the wounds are still tender, but we begin to see and feel a light at the end of the tunnel as she realizes she’s “had the keys to the door all along.”
For anyone that’s found themselves in a messy situation with love and relationships, Endings, Beginnings is a raw and honest depiction of how the basic human desire for intimacy can adversely intersect with the need to separate who we are and who we want to be.
This film isn’t your typical Hollywood spectacle of girl meets boy, girl meets another boy, antics ensue. When Daphne makes the wrong decisions they’re not played off by comedic interjections or romanticized with dramatic suspense that promises a savory payoff. Instead, viewers are forced to confront the discomfort of the reality of what happens when the pieces of your love life no longer neatly fit together and instead spill out of the organized box you’ve placed them in. Sometimes we make bad decisions, and we hurt people and ourselves, because we’re human, not because there’s a satisfying storybook ending waiting to unfold.
Endings, Beginnings doesn’t exist to tell us a neat and tidy story about finding the right person and the right answers. It exists to affirm what everyone needs to hear at some point — it’s okay not to be okay.
Endings, Beginnings is now available digitally and on-demand.