Romance movies typically skew for a certain instead of appealing to all audiences. The great ones (The Fault in Our Stars, Titanic, and The Big Sick) are the ones that can resonate and move a wide variety of people, both male and female. It makes the genre take more risks and it also makes the movie bold and more appealing for both film fans and the average movie goer. While Endings, Beginnings is a slow and somber love story, the performances from the entire ensemble, mainly from Shailene Woodley, really make this movie worth the investment.
Endings, Beginnings tells the story of a 30-year-old woman, Daphne (Woodley), who’s basically trying to live her life the best way she can. She’s trying to look for jobs, she’s trying to balance out a meaningful social life while struggling with love and a heartbreak, all over the course of a year or so. It isn’t until she gets invited to a party where she meets two different guys, Frank (Sebastian Stan) and Jack (Jamie Dornan), and falls in love with them both, that a whole new experience and life for Daphne ultimately opens up.
Now, things can get a bit slippery when a movie introduces a love-triangle in any movie, simply because it’s really challenging for people to suspend their disbelief on whether it’s something that actually happens. One thing that Endings, Beginnings does well is that it presents Daphne to the audience as the central focus, because, as the story unfolds, it continues to show that it’s about her ability to care and love for herself, even while being in love with two men simultaneously. Every time she’s with Frank or Jack, she’s running into some form of conflict because she’s constantly trying to figure out her wants and desires so she can be happy.
Shailene Woodley, who should be a bigger and more bankable star in Hollywood, gives a profound and very heartbreaking performance, one that really carries this movie and elevates the emotional crux to other levels. The performance she gives as Daphne is a beautiful and nuanced way of director Drake Doremus telling the audience that it’s important for anyone, of any age, to really nurture themselves and work on fixing themselves and how terrifying it is to be alone. Woodley’s performance exempts so much vulnerability and fear, that it easily makes her the best part of the movie. Really highlighting the character’s vulnerability and how much fear can dread on someone as they mentally decide what’s best for them is an aspect that’s not explored at all in most romance movies, or at least at this level of detail.
It’s a great thing to see Jamie Dornan deliver a solid performance. Being famous from the Fifty Shades of Grey movies and showing his skills in the TV show The Fall, he’s proven that he is, and should be, recognized as a solid talent. Dornan really pulls off the nice guy look. He and Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Solider) each share a sweet love dynamic with Shailene Woodley. Ultimately, what the movie tries to convince us of is that Frank and Jack both might be perfect for Daphne, but deep in her heart, she knows they’re both terrible investments for her love life. She might be in love with both Frank and Jack, but no matter what, she’s always having this internal battle inside, that ultimately makes us, as the audience, side with her more and more.
Something that makes Endings, Beginnings stand out more effectively is how the movie is shot. Director Drake Doremus was really emphasizing more the hand-held camera approach, and while some might find this style of filmmaking a bit stale or pretentious, it really did offer something that felt more personal and more “in the moment.” Most movies would have wider and extended takes in setting up a shot, and while Endings, Beginnings does feature a good amount of wider shots, it’s most told with close up shots on character moments. Doremus also tells the story much slower than one might originally anticipate. Yes, there is strong effectiveness that does work for this movie, but the pacing doesn’t necessarily work. It’s about a 2-hour movie, and it feels a lot longer than it actually is, thereby making parts of it, at times, somber. It doesn’t completely derail the movie, but there are times where the pace of Endings, Beginnings could have been bumped up a notch.
Endings, Beginnings is by no means a game-changer for the genre of romance, but it wonderfully expounds on the commentary of one seeking a strong relationship, while still depicting the struggles and the conflict that come within. While Sebastian Stan and Jamie Dornan give solid performances, Shailene Woodley is really the one piece of the puzzle that holds this movie together. The subject matter is handled with delicacy and the filmmaking, while different, was an interesting way of telling the story. Aside from a sluggish pace towards the middle of the movie, Endings, Beginnings is an enjoyable experience.
Available on VOD May 1st, 2020.
Final Score: 3.5 out 5.