The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending


Unravel the truth.

Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Iris) is a man haunted by his past in this British drama based on the novel by Julian Barnes. Co-stars Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling (45 Years).

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Flicks Review

The generally reliable presence of Brit stalwarts Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling can only do so much heavy lifting to prevent this underwhelming adaptation of Julian Barnes’ novel from sinking into middlebrow mediocrity. It’s a clear example of a work that probably exists more convincingly in literary form; whatever emotional punch its source appears to have hasn’t survived the jump between mediums.... More

Recalling Andrew Haigh’s superior and more devastating 45 Years, The Sense of an Ending navigates the haunting fog of age, memory and perception, as cranky, divorced London retiree Tony Webster (Broadbent) is forced to confront his past when he’s bequeathed a mysterious diary by his former girlfriend’s late mother. Nostalgia-laced flashbacks fill in the gaps of Webster’s college years. It’s a time divided between pints at the pub with his Dylan Thomas-quoting buddies, a sexually frustrated relationship with first flame Veronica (Freya Mavor) and processing a tragedy that irrevocably changes their lives.

The minor-key gentleness of Ritesh Batra’s direction sporadically complements the introspective material. And Broadbent is expectedly good playing a grump. But attempts to seize profundity from all the timeline-leaping are laboured and heavy-handed, marked by some clunky spots of doddering-seniors-in-the-21st century-style humour (faring better are wryly observed scenes between Webster and his ex-wife Margaret). The Sense of an Ending eventually succumbs to its increasingly lethargic pace, flatlining at a resolution that should have yielded heart-rending catharsis, not shrug-inducing indifference.Hide

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BY cinemusefilm superstar

Everyone is a storyteller in their own way. Some use the big screen, others a book or a painter’s canvas, but most of us tell stories to ourselves. In 1967, acclaimed literary theorist Professor Frank Kermode published a seminal book called The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. He argued that we all internally write the fictions of our lives into a coherent pattern so things appear to have a logical beginning, a middle and an ending. We do this for one simple reason: to... More make it possible to “coexist with temporal chaos” and to “humanise the common death”. This philosophical insight inspired the 2011 Julian Barnes novel of the same name that is now adapted in the film The Sense of an Ending (2017). Joining these dots help us to understand what this film is about.

The film plot is simple but the story complex. Retired divorcee Tony (Jim Broadbent) is known as a curmudgeon by his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) and daughter Suzie (Michelle Dockery). He busies himself in his tiny shop selling second-hand Leica cameras when one day a lawyer’s letter arrives that reopens memories of his first love. What follows is a jigsaw of glimpses into an old man’s obsessive quest for redemption as he becomes haunted by an act of spite that he believes led to the suicide of his best friend. When he renews contact with his first love Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) he must confront unresolved emotions that were buried beneath the fictions he has constructed about his life.

This slow and serious film is not for everyone. Younger people are too busy making memories to be rewriting the story of their lives. Older audiences will recognise what Tony is experiencing and empathise with his need for a ‘sense of an ending’. Despite the film’s stellar cast and fine acting, none of the characters are especially likeable, so it is possible to leave this film disengaged with the people while having been thoroughly immersed in the story. This is a well-directed dialogue-driven film. Its multiple flashbacks capture the disjointed half recalled fragments that many of us store as life memories. Most of all, it is an introspective and insightful essay on how we make sense of our lives.Hide

The Press Reviews

  • Julian Barnes' short, penetrating novel about how we self-protectively edit our memories receives an intelligent, low-key, necessarily diluted big-screen treatment in The Sense of an Ending. Full Review

  • Its most receptive audiences will almost certainly be older, with enough life experience to recognize the mix of curiosity and regret that ensnares us like so many wild brambles each time we hazard a stroll down Memory Lane. Full Review

  • You only spoon-feed an audience that way when you don't trust them - or don't trust your ability to connect with them on a deeper level. In this case, it's probably both. Full Review

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