Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) has lived the past 60 years with a totally false impression of his youth, friends and first love. He receives a letter from that past, a letter with the promise of a mysterious diary, which will have a profound effect on the man in “The Sense of an Ending.”
This is the second feature film from director Ritesh Batra. His first, “The Lunchbox (2013),” is a charming film about unrequited love that revolves around the title “character.” “The Sense of an Ending,” adapted by Nick Payne from the Julian Barnes novel, is also the story of unrequited love, but also one about an apparent betrayal that plagued Tony his entire life. When “the letter” arrives at his doorstep, it sparks a renewed interest in his past, especially since the letter mentions the diary.
The diary becomes an obsession for Tony, beginning his search into his past and Veronica (Freya Mavor in flashback, Charlotte Rampling in present day), his first love and first heartbreak. This journey, by Tony, brings the real story of his younger days to light and how his misconceptions colored his entire life.
The film is divided evenly between Tony’s present – his ex-wife and confessor Margaret (Harriet Walker), very pregnant daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery and the mysterious diary – and flashbacks to his formative youth in prep school, with Billy Howle as the young Tony. The shifts back and forth in time flow well as older Tony delves into his past and makes life altering discoveries.
“The Sense of and Ending” is an odd little mystery story about a man who has lived his life in delusion. The revelations of that life do, as I said, profoundly change Tony into a very different man – for the better. I give it a B-.
Talk about an unreliable narrator! Without having read Julian Barnes's novel, I came away from this film feeling like it was more of a
companion piece than a film which stands in its own right. As Tony (Jim Broadbent in a performance we've seen from him before) wrestles with his past, we learn that he has shielded his own memory from harsher truths. But although director Batra switches his
timeline from the past to the present throughout, at the end of the film you still may not be sure exactly what happened. There are some good performances here, with Emily Mortimer as Veronica's flirtatious mother the highlight, but "The Sense of an Ending" is truth in advertising. C+
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