Divorced and retired, Tony Webster, an aging Londoner and vintage camera shop owner, whittles down the solitude of his isolated existence by keeping an affectionate relationship with his ex-wife, Margaret, and by accompanying his nearly full-term pregnant daughter, Susie, to antenatal courses. However, the unexpected arrival of an unsettling letter will disrupt the fine balance of things in Tony's orderly life, reconnecting him with his first love from college, Veronica, and the nostalgic, yet clouded memories of a distant past. Inevitably, as Tony scavenges for bits and pieces through flashbacks, the out-of-focus picture of his youth will gradually sharpen, nevertheless, is he ready to face the truth?Written by
"The Sense of an Ending" is a relatable, entertaining and thought-provoking character-driven drama.
We all reminisce. Older people have more to mull over than their younger counterparts, but we all do it. To what extent are our memories accurate representations of what actually happened? And how do the things that we forget, choose to leave out or just misremember affect how we view our past – and our present? These are the kind of questions the British drama "The Sense of Ending" (PG-13, 1:48) so eloquently and engagingly poses. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by famed British author Julian Barnes (who won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for the book), this film has the potential to entertain all Movie Fans – and give them plenty to think about, regardless where they are in their lives, but those contemplations will vary depending on the stage of life they occupy at the moment.
Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) is a disagreeable, semi-retired 70-something curmudgeon living in London. He used to make his living as a doctor, but now he owns a small vintage camera shop. Tony is long divorced from Margaret Webster (Harriet Walker), but they remain quite friendly, mutually supporting their pregnant single daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery from TV's "Downton Abbey"), and sometimes meeting to discuss their lives over a spot of tea. Obviously comfortable (if not entirely happy) living out the narrative of his life (as he sees it), Tony is about to be shaken out of his complacency.
Dr. Webster receives a letter informing him that he has been bequeathed an old diary by the recently departed mother of his college girlfriend. Questions abound. Tony wants to know whose diary it is. When he tells his ex-wife about the letter, she's curious why the mother of a long-lost love would be leaving him anything in her will. As Tony struggles with the family's lawyer to get his hands on the diary (or at least get some answers), he begins telling Margaret stories from a past that he has never before shared. She gets frustrated when she senses that he isn't telling her the whole story, while the audience is left to wonder what he's leaving out, why he's leaving things out and if he even realizes he's doing it.
Tony's story slowly unfolds (and is later revisited and built upon) in flashbacks throughout the movie. As a young man, Tony (played during his school days and college years by Billy Howle) begins dating the young, fetching and quirky Veronica Ford (Freya Mavor). As they figure out how they really feel about each other and where their relationship is going, Tony spends a weekend at her family's country cottage, where Tony hits it off with Veronica's mother, Sarah (Emily Mortimer). Eventually (not a spoiler – it's in the theatrical trailer), young Tony's best friend, the very intelligent but very maudlin Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn) emerges as a rival for Veronica's affections. As a mystery unravels both in old Tony's rearview mirror and in his present, he finds old Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) and demands answers.
"The Sense of an Ending" is a relatable, entertaining and thought-provoking character-driven drama. This impressive collection of English thespians all give heart-felt and layered performances, while Nick Payne's script and Ritesh Batra's direction sensitively and insightfully develop the story, but still leave room for individual interpretations. How a person sees this film will have as much to do with his or her age, perceptions and individual experiences as the story itself. And when all is said and done, the film's ending still leaves room for discussion among Movie Fans. Rather than a clearly defined ending, we get the sense of an ending. Or is it a beginning? It's for each of you to decide for yourselves. Getting there does require you to go along for the ride on a slow-moving cinematic train, but it's well worth the journey – especially since you may be surprised where you end up. "A-"
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