The Sense of An Ending: Film Review
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Michelle Dockery
Director: Ritesh Batra
Based on Julian Barnes' Man Booker prize winning novel, the film version of The Sense of an Ending benefits greatly from the paucity of its lead actor.
Broadbent doles kindly and curmudgeonly in his role as Tony Webster, a retired man who runs a camera repair shop. Webster is a man consumed by the past in more ways than one. He refuses to get a smartphone despite his daughter (Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey) being about to give birth, he tends to damaged cameras, and his desktop runs an old system.
Further to this one foot in the past ethos, Webster one day receives a letter which sends him down memory lane. Caught up in reflections from yesteryear, Webster begins to re-examine his life and his decisions.
Intercut with scenes from Webster's school days and burgeoning romance and relationship with an enigmatic girl Veronica and his friendship with school newcomer Adrian, the film has a tendency to simply cut to the past as the assignations of the present start to come squarely into focus. But it comes to rely on its bifurcated structure to provide the drive of the film as it continues.
And while Broadbent is the main reason to view this film, thanks in large part to a subtle underplayed turn that always hints at something more, this adaptation is probably more for an older generation after some reflexive viewing.
Parts of the book feel like they could have been trimmed for the screenplay, and a lot of Dockery's scenes and her character genuinely feel redundant to what's actually transpiring.
Equally, a fleeting appearance from Rampling squanders one of the best assets, and while that's not her fault, and is the demand of the narrative, her scenes with Broadbent's Webster pack an emotional power that's hard to deny.
But it's the hard yards to get to the emotional pay-off, with much of the film's mystery desperately masking itself as an enigma. Webster's rhapsodic ruminations are certainly universal in some ways (love, lust, desire) but the ultimate reveal feels more muted than devastating; a sign perhaps that translating this to a larger canvas means the intimacy of the book's context is a little torn asunder.
There are plenty of wry whimsical words which will resonate with the older end of the audience as it ambles toward its conclusion, and Broadbent's somewhat particular demeanour as Webster means he's never anything less than watchable, but perhaps The Sense of an Ending is more a case of a story that is slightly - and unfortunately - lost in translation.