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With Jim Sabatini

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending
Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter and Michelle Dockery

Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, a violent image, sexuality and brief strong language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 17, 2017 Released by: CBS Films

An inscrutable drama may not be so hard to decipher (as a mystery designed for older, less discerning onlookers) as it filters through the blind spots in one man's life concerning memory and time. As events occur in life strongly influencing others as well as ourselves there is the tendency or "human nature" to see what we want to see, or recall what we want to recall even much later.

Ritesh Batra's low-budget cinema, The Sense of an Ending, doesn't equal his earlier effort The Lunchbox in drawing from a prize-winning 2011 Julian Barnes novel with scenarist Nick Payne that juxtaposes past and present (nearly a half-century apart) though both share a latent yearning.

The narrator is Jim Broadbent's ornery, though finally self-deprecating Tony Webster, a semi-retired Londoner running a vintage (analog) camera shop as he's not concerned with the broadening digital world. A septuagenarian bachelor becomes obsessed with revisiting his past when bequeathed by an old flame's mother.

Broadbent's shaded turn may not be a stretch, but the Oscar-winner (for the less sentimental Iris which also pivoted on flashbacks more effectively) still gets into the focus on his twilight rueful nature in an affecting way. Even if the ultimate emotional pull from two sides of strife coming back in haunting fashion isn't rendered in tightly biting, memorable fashion by Barnes.

An 'enclosed' object which turns out not to be included after a letter begins to prickle his mind leads to a meeting over coffee and voyeurism around that flame from his younger days, Veronica (an acerbic, brusque, succinctly watchable Charlotte Rampling). Veronica gives Tony a letter sent to her and the challenging, intellectual, Dylan Thomas poetry loving long-since passed classmate Adrian whom she left him for that stirs up his mind.

Omissions had likely led to his divorce with legal-minded Margaret (a fine Harriet Walter) who is intrigued and flustered at the prospect of aiding him on his quest. A part of their family unit is quite pregnant single lesbian Susie (Michelle Dockery of the small-screen acclaimed series Downton Abbey).

The flashbacks are crucial to this misremembering or interpretation with notable turns by Billy Howle as the unassuming college-prep student, Freya Manor as the alluring Veronica, and Joe Alwyn as Adrian. An awkward interlude with Veronica's mother, Sarah, a flighty, coquettish scene-stealing Emily Mortimer also is part of "the lives we remember" from a narrator who obviously has done some altering. Yet, the undeterred Tony comes to terms with the decisions he has made. The title may feel all too appropriate in trying to nail down the truth regarding a chosen loner of a pensioner, but the Indian helmer makes it provocative enough to steer away from heavy-handed sermonizing.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Gerry Matt Claudette Jennifer Audralee  Avg. 
The Sense of an Ending        B-                     B- 

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