A man becomes haunted by his past and is presented with a mysterious legacy that causes him to re-think his current situation in life.
‘The Sense of an Ending‘ should be excellent. It is based on a Booker Prize winner, which usually signifies huge success – previous Booker Prize winning adaptations have included ‘Life of Pi‘, ‘The English Patient‘, ‘Schindler’s List‘ and ‘The Remains of the Day‘; all of which were showered with Oscar nominations. Add to that national treasure and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling and a Bafta nominated director (Ritesh Batra) and we have all the ingredients of a hit movie. Why then, did this film leave me cold?
The movie follows Tony Webster (Broadbent), a curmudgeonly divorcee who runs a photography shop in London and who gets kicks from having his letters published in The Guardian’s comments pages. When he receives a letter from a solicitor informing him that the mother of an old flame has left him a diary – MacGuffin alert! – in her will, this kick-starts a series of painful memories which the viewer sees in flashback form as he details them to his ex-wife (the wonderful and underused Harriet Walter) and eventually meets up with his old flame, Veronica (Rampling). All the while, we have a peculiar sub-plot whereby Tony’s daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) is heavily pregnant, scenes of which seem to only be there to provide mild (and I mean mild) comic relief.
While the film is certainly an interesting character piece, and Jim Broadbent is one of the finest character actors there is, there simply wasn’t enough there to make a truly engaging movie. The flashbacks, while clearly important to establish why Tony was living in torment, just didn’t provide enough emotional pull to keep me interested in what had happened back then to make the diary so important. When the reveal comes it was disappointing and, frankly, unbelievable in the truest sense of the word. While I accept that we all go through major life events that have an impact on how we react to things subsequently, I simply didn’t buy into to Tony’s story here, nor the decisions he makes. The film is not without merit, and I would always much prefer to see an intimate British drama than a CGI-packed generic action flick. Ultimately, I found myself lamenting that this film is so average as I would hate for these kinds of films to stop being made.
As mentioned the novel won the Booker Prize, and despite not having read it myself, I must assume from this that it is well written, with a considered narrative and thus does not suffer from the same pitfalls as the movie. A missed opportunity.
Review by Richard Mason
Directed By: Ritesh Batra
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Joe Alwyn, Peter Wright, Hilton McRae, Harriet Walter, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Edward Holcroft and James Wilby