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Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: "The Sense of an Ending" lives up to its title

Mar 17, 2017 04:59PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Charlotte Rampling and Jim Broadbent in The Sense of an Ending - © 2017 CBS Films/Lionsate.

The Sense of an Ending (CBS Films/Lionsgate)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, a violent image, sexuality and brief strong language.

Starring Jim Broadbent, Billy Howle, Charlotte Rampling, Freya Mavor, Joe Alwyn, Andrew Buckley, Peter Wright, Jack Loxton, Hilton McRae, Timothy Innes, Harriet Walter, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Edward Holcroft, James Wilby.

Written by Nick Payne, based on the novel by Julian Barnes.

Directed by Ritesh Batra.



A beginning, a middle and an end. Most stories have them, and translate as such when adapted to films.  Linear structure helps audiences become engaged in the journey of characters on screen, except when a filmmaker uses flashbacks and creative editing to build tension and provide context. The Sense of an Ending, a film based on Julian Barnes’ best-selling novel is a movie that meanders around the conflict of the story’s main character, leaving the audience in search of a narrative.

Jim Broadbent plays the story’s main character Tony, a salty, aged divorcee who owns a London-area camera shop. When an attorney informs him that a woman (the mother of his first love Veronica) has recently died and left him a large sum of money, Tony begins to reflect on his days a college student. As a young man, Tony (played as a young man by Billy Howle) meets the beautiful Veronica (played by Freya Mavor) and the two fall in love. Tony meets Veronica’s family, including her mother Sarah (Emily Mortimer). During the same time, Tony becomes friends with Adrian (Joe Alwyn). Tony’s life changes when he discovers that Veronica and Adrian have become romantically involved, and he sends them a nasty letter. A short time later, Adrian commits suicide, while Veronica disappears from is life (there’s a rumor she’s become pregnant). Flashing forward, contemporary Tony tries to decipher why Veronica’s mother would leave him Adrian’s diary. Tony tries to explain himself to his ex wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) and pregnant daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery). He decides to look up Veronica (played by Charlotte Rampling in for answers, and soon discovers a hidden secret that prompts him to make changes in his life.

The Sense of an Ending is a film (and story) that lives up to its title. While Jim Broadbent’s eloquent performance gives the movie a particular charm and beauty, the “big reveal” in the plot is somewhat cryptic and misleading. Tony’s sudden change of character after the “reveal” is also enigmatic, an abrupt about-face that leaves little explanation for development.

Taken as a whole, The Sense of an Ending is less of a story, and more like long-form poetry; a journey that draws more upon emotion than structure. As an artistic expression, it’s an enjoyable reflection on the events that shape our lives.

The Sense of an Ending Trailer