MOVIE: THE SENSE OF AN ENDING
STARRING: JIM BROADBENT; HARRIET WALTER; CHARLOTTE RAMPLING; JOE ALWYN
DIRECTED BY: RITESH BATRA
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The thought of how our past's can haunt us, deep into our old age, is something that often crosses my mind. In The Sense of an Ending, our main character, Tony Webster has become the man he is by actions he took as a young man. The effects his impulsive ways have had on those around him, are not thoughts he wants to dwell on, but they do follow him around, like a balloon tethered to a string. A fear of confronting these actions is the films conflict that feels very real to me, especially with an expert character portrayal in the lead performance by Jim Broadbent, paired with a crisp story, told by director Ritesh Batra. The Sense of an Ending is a well seasoned drama on all accounts.
Based on the novel by Julian Barnes, we follow Tony Webster (played by the always reliable Broadbent) from his life during his present elderly state and in flashbacks of his youthful times at university. He lives in England, divorced and working at his used camera store, when one day he receives a letter in the mail when walking out the door. What is in the letter is information about the will of his ex-girlfriends recently deceased mother (Emily Mortimer). The contents of this will is the films “Macguffin”, a diary that was once owned by Tony's friend Finn (Joe Alwyn). It sets Tony on a path to retrieve the item, but also opens up the mystery of a few traumatic events that he has not forgotten.
Like many good stories, it starts with a lover. Tony met young Veronica (Freya Mavor) at a party, as she fidgets with her camera, where the two share a few passing glances. She would be his first love, someone he cared for deeply, as it gave him an escape from the daily philosophy chats with his friends from school. That is, until the love grew sour and Finn swooped in to begin dating Veronica. This angers Tony, motivating him to write a letter of curse on their love, well aware of Finn's romantic theories of suicide and Veronica's conflicting family dynamic.
What works best in The Sense of an Ending is the humanity portrayed in each character. Director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) has a strong divide between the youthful, wide eyed performance by young Tony (Billy Howie) and the elder Broadbent, who perfectly portrays the stubborn denial of his characters past faults. His interactions with his pregnant daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) and ex-wife (Harriet Walter) often skittish, played like a man who constantly carries his past. It's easy to call this a film for the more mature audiences, that's because the screenplay by Nick Payne has a complete grasp of each characters flawed, hidden emotions. The journey in this film is in breaking down Tony's concrete hard, emotional walls.
Eventually, we finally learn the mystery of the diary when Tony comes face to face with Veronica (at this point played by Charlotte Rampling, whose presence only elevates the film), to find out how his words have had an impact, and maybe there is still unresolved conflict the two need to talk about. Films such as Broadbent's work in Le Week-end and a bit of the relationship struggles in The Theory of Everything seem to permeate in Batra's direction. The ending does spell out the dramatics a bit too much, but I was able to move past that.
I don't think The Sense of an Ending is the type of film that wow's crowds in the theater, it's the kid of movie that should have “morning matinee for the elder crowd” written all over it. That's not a bad thing though. I actually think movies such as this deserve more attention and so does Broadbent. He really is a fantastic actor. This movie reminds us of that.
Written by: Leo Brady