Film Review: THE SENSE OF AN ENDING (UK 2016) ***1/2

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the_sense_of_an_ending.jpgDirector: Ritesh Batra
Writers: Julian Barnes (novel), Nick Payne (adaptation)
Stars: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter

Review by Gilbert Seah

The first thing that should be known when watching the drama THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is that it is based on the 2011 Man Booker Prize winning book of the same name by British author, Julian Barnes. The influence of a writer and the importance of writing are both evident at many points in the film.

The story in the book is told in two parts, narrated by Anthony ‘Tony’ Webster at two stages of his life, the first as a school lad in the 6th form (Grade 12 or Pre-University) and secondly in his elderly retired part of his life. The script by Nick Payne (a playwright with this being his first film script) reverses the process. The film opens with Tony (Oscar Winner Jim Broadbent) in his senior years recounting the past, which is told in flashback. This story-telling better suits a film structure.

The film is the story of how a letter written in anger by Tony in his younger days had affected the girl, Veronica (Freya Mavor) he loved and his best friend, Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn). The story here emphasizes the importance of writing even as Tony jokes with this line uttered at the start if the film: “No one writes anymore.”

The film is an excellent blend of writing in and direction. The words of the book come alive as the beautiful dialogue is spoken by the actors. Director Ritesh Batra’s (he made the highly successful Indian film THE LUNCHBOX in 2014) English directorial debut is excellent.

Batra plays the film as a mystery with lots of skeletons in the close in addition to false clues to tease the audience. The truth comes out at the very end. Nothing is what it seems. The climax occurs in the pub where a revelation is made to Tony. Batra’s Indian influence can be noticed with the over-excited, chubby Indian postman who delivers the post to Tony’s house.

Despite the seriousness of the story, there is a lot of humour in the film. The humour comes primarily from Tony’s lesbian daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery). She is a member of the LPL (lesbians impregnating lesbians). When the film opens, she is taking her father to the lesbian baby delivery classes.

But the film, in all earnest, (funny enough) is a coming-of-age story of a senior retired man, disgruntled with his life, as seen as he mutters and grumbles about at the start of the film. After his growing up process, he is shown the kinder gentleman.

Jim Broadbent is again, excellent in his meticulously portrayed Tony without any display of over-acting. Charlotte Rampling (who is always doing roles of frustrated seniors) plays the elderly Veronica while Matthew Goode has a small role as Tony’s teacher in school.

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is so called because, as quoted from by author Julian Barnes, in life incidents just happen. In books, a meaning to an incident is explained. In the film all events occurring to Tony’s life come with explanations. And very satisfactory ones resulting in a very satisfactory film.



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