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The Sense of an Ending review: stunning performances from veteran actors
April 23, 2017
The Sense of an Ending hits the ground running with its leading cast. Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter and Michelle Dockery provide a quintessential British cast, which gears us up for something good. However, unlike the innocent bumbliness we’re used to from the likes of Broadbent, we’re greeted by a grouchy divorcee, Tony, who can barely manage a ‘thank you’ for the postman. From here, we’re taken on a journey into Tony’s difficult past, part-drama with a hint of mystery, that leads us into uncomfortable and unexpected places.
Director Ritesh Batra came onto the global scene with 2013’s The Lunchbox but has been fairly quiet until this year with The Sense of an Ending and Our Souls at Night, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda – another film apparently about those in their golden years, the likes of which seem to be becoming more abundant in recent years, perhaps as a welcome reaction to the backlash against ageism in the film industry. It’s somewhat concerning, however, that Charlotte Rampling (glorious as she may be) is being cast repeatedly in these roles, leaving little room for any other mature talent to shine. Nonetheless, Harriet Walter does a pretty good job of it, playing Tony’s sensible ex-wife, Margaret, and the voice of reason amongst some extremely problematic decision-making.
The events that lead to Tony’s poor judgement in his contemporary actions stem from two past relationships: one with a ‘mysterious’ girl name Veronica, and one with a broodily enigmatic school mate, Adrian, who is staunchly stoic and spell-bindingly philosophical. After Tony’s relationship with Veronica comes to an end, she strikes one up with Adrian. From this situation arises an ill-conceived letter of vitriolic retribution, long forgotten by Tony himself, and his past becomes fogged with uncertainty.
The performances from the veteran actors are as stunning as one might expect, although the beginning of the film is hampered by some bad walk-on acting and less than sterling dialogue. However, as we move through the drama, we get a sense of the precarious nature of memory itself. Tony’s own reflections tell us how we don’t see our lives as a series of events, but as a story that we tell ourselves – a narrative that we shape and mould to suit our perspective of ourselves. And in the end, if the story we’re telling ourselves is just a lie, we may be grumpy to the postman forever. Luckily, this story leaves the viewer with a sense of hope – for redemption and forgiveness, and that our golden years can still be some of our most precious.
Words by Catherine Bridgman
The Sense of an Ending is in UK cinemas from April 14