Sense Of An Ending is worth watching not for its sense of closure but rather the performances which get us there. Martin Carr takes a closer look…
Although not particularly revelatory in its denouement Ritesh Batra’s Sense of An Ending is compelling, thought provoking and nostalgic. Grounded by two inter-generational performances from Jim Broadbent and Billy Howle, it sensitively explores themes of regret, teenage longing and growing old. Subtlety supported by Michelle Dockery, Harriot Walter and newcomers Howle and Freya Mavor, Batra shapes a reminiscent tale through flashback and present day dialogue.
London, Cambridge and leafy country retreats are all dappled with a rose tinted hue by cinematographer Christopher Ross. Giving even confrontational scenes an idyllic feel tinged with a sense of family, security and cosseted upper middle class disconnection. Peppered with cameos from Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer and Charlotte Rampling, this film encourages self-reflection, re-evaluation and regret to develop naturally from within.
Based on a novel by Julian Barnes its evocation of Fifties Britain, elitist university life and robust character is impressive, meaning that our connection between the two timeframes remains solid. Freya Mavor and Billy Howle as younger versions of both Broadbent and Rampling do much of the heavy lifting. Instilling a sense of reality which is carried over by their opposite numbers into the present. Matthew Goode and Joe Alwyn appear fleetingly but are both pivotal in filling out a fiction which is absorbing and engaging simultaneously. While Harriet Walter’s pragmatic ex-wife neither mollycoddles nor admonishes treading a fine line between put upon shoulder to cry on and voice of reason.
Where this well rounded character piece falls down slightly is in the reunion, rejection and final reconciliation between Rampling and Broadbent. When that final twist lands and we realise what had only been hinted at there should have been more fireworks. However what we get instead are scornful looks, borderline stalking behaviour and stolen exchanges in suburban pubs or coldly clinical art galleries. Moments building up to that including flashes of the past invading our present through Broadbent’s Tony are used sparingly to great effect. As these two timelines coalesce the balance between both is maintained, while the only tonal issue remains the speed of forgiveness over the aforementioned transgression.
Also for all its solid acting there seems to be no epiphany or eureka moment, while a sudden realisation, apology and scene of family bonding felt right but just not conclusive. Where the problem lies however may well be with that novel, which pivots on a moment of hot headed behaviour romanticised by time and tide. Misunderstandings, moments of regret and instances of brash reaction shape us all at certain points in our lives. What sits at the centre of this film and ultimately undermines it dramatically is the fact we all know that.
Whether examining those themes through fiction or film irrespective of script or source material, emotional epiphanies concerning matters of the heart need to pack an adequate punch. For that reason Sense Of An Ending is worth watching not for its sense of closure but rather the performances which get us there. Evocative of time and place, if not completely balanced tonally, this will bring back memories, remind you of missed opportunities and make you nostalgic for moments that mattered in your own life.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Written by: Nick Payne
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Dockery
Released: 2017 / Genre: Mystery-Drama
Country: UK / IMDB
Top 10 Films reviewed Sense Of An Ending on DVD courtesy of Studiocanal. The film was released on DVD/Blu-ray on Aug 14.