Buckley deserves to be in the Best Actress conversation for this delicate, utterly alive performance

By David Canfield
February 11, 2021 at 02:03 PM EST

When Jessie Buckley came in to audition for I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Charlie Kaufman's trippy 2020 Netflix film, she received a one-word note describing the unnamed main character: molecular. "I was like, 'That's amazing, I don't know what that means'...[but] when you get something so off the cuff like that, that word can be whatever it needs to be to you," she recalls. "For me, it was a shattering of particles. There's no ground. We're all pieces of things that are collected and changed and transformed and transgressed. With that note, you've got to let yourself float in the wind and not try and control. Let yourself be whatever you are in that moment."

It's a fitting operating mode for the role, which oscillates between reality and surreality as a couple's trip between a young man named Jake (Jesse Plemons) and his apparent girlfriend (Buckley) takes, as is standard for Kaufman, some wild, confounding turns. Buckley proves a remarkable grounding force, though, in a performance that indeed meets whatever the film requires of her, whether that's the weary girlfriend, a manifestation of trauma, or the reincarnation of legendary film critic Pauline Kael.

Credit: Mary Cybulski/NETFLIX

Buckley, who has been nominated for a Gotham Award and several critics' prizes for her work in the movie, joined EW's The Awardist video series for an in-depth conversation on preparing for the slippery part. The whole project was a labor of love, completed in an unimaginably tight four weeks. ""For a lot of those those long dialogue scenes in the car, we had like two takes," Buckley reveals. "We had two, three days rehearsal before we started filming…. What was such a beautiful thing was that the crew was all emotionally charged and invested in the film and the story and the feeling of it. When you came to action, it was almost like doing a play. You're there."

Buckley treasures her memory of making the film, which made watching it a...tricky endeavor. "The first time you go in with nerves and self-loathing," she says with a laugh. "But I watched it twice. I was amazed at how it had changed and what it had become. At the end of it, my boyfriend had come to me like, 'Are you real?'"

We're still wondering too. Call it a testament to her performance.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

Related content: