One night, one party, can change your life forever. In Endings, Beginnings, Daphne (Shailene Woodley) discovers this when she meets not one, but two, handsome men at her sister’s New Years Eve party. Conflicted, she’s drawn into a tumultuous love triangle which propels her into an exploration of her values and morality and irreversibly shifts the direction of her life.
The storytelling in Endings, Beginnings is told through snapshots of Daphne’s life. The audience is given a rough feeling of time passing through mentions of events – Christmas and New Years Eve for example – and through the progression of Daphne’s sister’s pregnancy, but the story never feels spoon fed. The experience is a little like seeing someone’s memories through their eyes and piecing together a story. I found the lack of intrusive exposition quite refreshing. You can pick up motivations and relationships through the character’s interactions but it never feels spelled out.
I also really enjoyed the cinematography and the score. The camera work felt intimate – usually seeing a scene through a characters eyes or from very close by. Daphne’s sadness earlier in the movie was palpable, a feeling of emptiness enhanced by the subtle use of sound. Later in the movie, the tone shifts with the soundtrack signalling her lighter, more playful mood.
The story is a little slow at times and it can be frustrating to watch as Daphne makes some clearly bad decisions. The storytelling style also took some time to grow on me. I’m so used to stories where the characters are more two dimensional and you can easily put people into their roles (ie the nice guy, the bad boy) and therefore easily understand the character’s motivations. Endings, Beginnings has a much softer narrative style, the characters don’t always fit into boxes and we’re only given snapshots of them anyway – not enough to judge. The dialogue is also a little raw in places. Maybe it’s more realistic, but being a fly on the wall of a mundane conversation isn’t that interesting. Likewise neither of the meet cutes were all that cute.
Endings, Beginnings feels like a coming of age story, but Daphne’s metamorphosis is not from childhood to adulthood. It’s the continued exploration of adulthood as you question your impact on others and see reflections of your parents. There’s an immaturity and selfishness in Daphne’s actions that’s a little hard to watch at times but as the story unwinds you realise you’re seeing a deeply flawed human being, neither angel nor demon, but someone who is trying to mature and find the right path. If you’re looking for a polished chick flick with slick dialogue, this isn’t your movie. Endings, Beginnings is instead a glimpse into the life of a flawed woman doing her best to figure things out.