The Sense of an Ending
dir Ritesh Batra
scr Nick Payne
prd Ed Rubin, David M Thompson
with Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Billy Howle, Freya Mavor, Joe Alwyn, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer, James Wilby, Edward Holcroft, Peter Wight
release US 10.Mar.17, UK 14.Apr.17
17/UK BBC 1h48
The Sense of an Ending
After all these years: Rampling and Broadbent

walter dockery alwyn
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Sense of an Ending An intriguing exploration of memory and nostalgia, this British drama gets a bit tangled up in the folds of its plot and never quite makes the most of it. But there are ideas swirling through every scene that resonate strongly, especially as expressed in some subtly razor-sharp performances. The film also makes strikingly good use of various London locations.

In his golden years, Tony (Broadbent) lives on his own and runs a small camera shop. He and ex-wife Margaret (Walter) are helping single daughter Susie (Dockery) through the final month of her pregnancy when Tony is notified that someone from his distant past has left him something in her will. So he begins looking into it, unearthing memories of his life as a university student (then Howle) falling in love with Veronica (Mavor), who instead fell for his best pal Adrian (Alwyn). So he tracks down Veronica (now Rampling) to get some closure.

Based on Julian Barnes' Booker-prize winning novel, Payne's script avoids taking a melodramatic approach to the story, opting for a thoughtful and introspective pace instead of firing things up with cheap emotion. This may leave the movie feeling like it has little momentum, never quite reaching a punchy crescendo. But it also cleverly reflects Tony's personality as a man who internalises his feelings, never quite grasping how events impact him or those around him. But, as he explains, he's doing the best he can.

Broadbent plays him beautifully as an alert man who has simply chosen not to dig too deeply into his own emotional responses. So a revelation about his past carries a proper kick, as does his tetchy reunion with Rampling's tightly wound and relentlessly private Veronica. Walter has a more open-handed role as Tony's plain-speaking ex. And the flashback sequences offer strong moments for Howle, Mavor, Alwyn and others, including Mortimer and Wilby as Veronica's parents.

Oddly, the plot's final big twist plays out in a way that feels anticlimactic and almost incidental. Perhaps this is the whole point of the story, but it leaves the film feeling a bit unfinished, which is ironic considering its title. Still, there are some lovely moments along the way, and the journey Tony takes is properly pointed. This is a moving reminder that we need to fully engage with the people in our lives. And that the past can always surprise us when we're least expecting it.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 3.Apr.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall