As much as Endings, Beginnings has its heart in the right place, Drake Doremus’s tale of love and heartbreak is unable to overcome its artistic style. A largely improvised mentality and an impressively stacked cast suggest promise, but this is a peculiarly substance-less drama where an effortlessly dedicated Shailene Woodley proves the only worthy addition.
Similar to the improvised template Drake Doremus adhered to with his breakout drama Like Crazy (2011) - though that film utilized the technique to a more impressive effect - Endings, Beginnings is largely unscripted. Given that this is something he’s attempted before, one would expect he would have a better grasp on sculpturing untested material. It’s to Doremus’s favour that he has a capable cast on board, but much how other previous efforts suggest his intrigue as a storyteller doesn’t necessarily translate to conducting them (his science-fiction romances Equals (2015) and Zoe (2018) being prime examples of fascinating stories that are ultimately muted in their framing). This drama, adequate and warm as it is, confirms his penchant for method over material.
Love and heartbreak often go hand-in-hand in cinematic storytelling, and whilst Endings, Beginnings isn’t exactly dealing with a new narrative concept in any way, shape, or form, detailing it specifically to be more about self-love rather than a shared romance at least gives off the allure it’s straying from the norm. As much as this is about self-love for the in-need-of-a-drastic-change Daphne (Woodley), the introduction of two polar opposite men in her life - one charming and cynical (Sebastian Stan), the other more cautious and sweet (Jamie Dornan) - allows the story to adopt a messy love triangle aspect that thankfully only plays further into its identity about being what Daphne truly wants.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
There’s an undeniably impressive ensemble on board here (Kyra Sedgwick, Wendie Malick, and Lindsay Sloane all solid in minor turns), though Dornan is fine, if a little dull, and Stan succeeds at wearing his lothario reputation on his sleeve, it’s Woodley who saves the film from buckling under the evident lack of confidence Doremus expresses in handling his players. She’s so passionate and compelling in her role (perhaps a nod to her ease working with the unstructured screenplay) that her radiance is, at times, enough of a distraction from the film’s sore points.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
It’s a film heavy on more natural sounds. Though not an aspect that many will take note of, there’s something impressive in the film’s control in its lack of assistance to draw emotion out through musical cues.
Special effects are non-existent, and the makeup is a subtle pallet across the board due to the more realistic tone the film aims for, but given that the film has an attractive pastel colour palette, I can’t dismiss it entirely. It’s actually quite a warm, inviting-looking film at times, further adding to its deceptive temperament of appearing as a more interesting story than it actually is.
"A Well-Intentioned Drama That Can't Commit To The Sentiment It Wants To Convey. "
There’s so many evident layers to the character of Daphne that Endings, Beginnings is ultimately a well-intentioned drama that can’t commit to the sentiment it wants to convey. A beautiful performance from Shailene Woodley and an at-times relatable mentality means the film isn’t a waste of time overall, but the sense of chaos that lingers over much of its 110 minute running time is difficult to forgive.