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The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending

Released 14 April 2017
Director Ritesh Batra
Starring




Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer, James Wilby, Edward Holcroft
Writer(s) Nick Payne
Producer(s) Ed Rubin, David M. Thompson
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 108 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating TBC
60

A novel approach.

Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending has had pride of place on my bookshelf since it won the Man Booker Prize in 2011. Despite being relatively short in length, it is a book of real power that slowly creeps up on you. What at first appears to be a rather run of the mill family drama, suddenly delivers an emotional punch that hinges on the callowness of youth and the distortions of memory.

The central character is Tony Webster, played by Jim Broadbent. Tony, a curmudgeonly but contented man, runs a shop that repairs and sells rare cameras. His family life is disjointed but relatively harmonious; he has a good relationship with his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) and a grown up daughter (Michelle Dockery), who is expecting her first child. When Tony receives a letter from a solicitor, his past begins to haunt him. The mother of his first love Veronica has just passed away, leaving Tony a diary that had belonged to an old school friend. This revelation brings old memories to the fore, as Tony meets Veronica again (Charlotte Rampling) and must face up to the consequences of the actions he took as a young man.

The adaptation, written by Nick Payne and directed by Ritesh Batra, never gets under the skin of the characters or themes of the book. So, while this is a solid adaptation, it fails to bring any depth to the drama and thus ends up more soap opera than operatic tragedy. All that being said, the film boasts some strong performances that just about keep the film above water. Broadbent is a nice choice for the leading role; he is an actor that immediately inspires warm, fuzzy feelings and it’s nice to see him playing against type as a self-obsessed, insensitive man. Walter does an excellent job of puncturing Tony’s pomposity and Rampling gives a beautifully subtle performance that feels like the beating heart of the film.

Despite the quality of the performances, the film ends up feeling rather slight. Without Barnes’ prose and skillfully deployed repetition, the nuances of memory end up being lost and the final reveal feels oddly uninvolving. I could say that the film represents a missed opportunity but perhaps this is one story that would have been better left on the page.

- Linda O’Brien