The Sense of an Ending – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Ritesh Batra
Writers: Julian Barnes (novel), Nick Payne (adaptation)
Stars: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter
Batra (The Lunchbox) has taken (with some liberties) Julian Barnes’s Man Booker award winning novel of the same title and with script writer Nick Jones has produced this journey into memory, things forgotten, things incorrectly remembered, regret over things said or written and how to come to terms with these failings in old age. Inevitably it traverses several decades in time.
The film starts with Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) pottering into his bijou specialist camera shop in Clapham. It is an activity which appears to be a hobby business to keep him occupied in his advanced years. Amongst his small post is a letter from a solicitor which informs him he is named as a beneficiary in a will. The testatrix is the mother of a former girlfriend of his youth Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) who is declining to make available a part of the bequest, which is of little or no monetary value, but is of huge personal interest to Tony. Inevitably his thoughts are reeled back fifty years or so to his last days in school and early days in university. He thinks about his then relationship with Veronica, his friendship with Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn) and how these relationships intertwined. Many of the recollections are awkward and have been left unvisited by him.
While these memories of his youth are playing through his mind his actual life as an enigmatic father of a pregnant daughter and as an estranged husband trundle along. Although Veronica did not wish to have further connection with Tony after their meeting he does. So their story in the present cuts into their past and memories which have long remained undisturbed are exhumed.
The story given the time span uses fairly long sequences of flash back. In their youth, Tony and Veronica as well as several other characters are played by younger actors. But it is the awkwardness of the damaged relationship between Tony and Veronica, in all its shards, which drives the story. Broadbent and Rampling are both in peerless form. The current domestic world of Tony’s life stands in stark contrast to the painful past which his meetings with Veronica have brought to light.
Batra as shown in The Lunchbox has a delicate touch when dealing with emotional complexity. He demonstrates that skill once more in this film. While the sheer scale of the flashbacks makes the film a little awkward, the story as told shows that within everyone there are parts of their past which they would prefer to remain undisturbed. It is a tale well worth the telling.