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The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending DVD cover art
The Sense of an Ending is now available on home video. Read our review of the DVD.

The Sense of an Ending (2017) movie poster The Sense of an Ending

Theatrical Release: March 10, 2017 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ritesh Batra / Writers: Julian Barnes (novel), Nick Payne (adaptation & screenplay)

Cast: Jim Broadbent (Tony Webster), Charlotte Rampling (Veronica Ford), Harriet Walter (Margaret Webster), Michelle Dockery (Susie Webster), Matthew Goode (Mr. Hunt), Emily Mortimer (Sarah Ford), James Wilby (David Ford), Edward Holcroft (Jack Ford), Billy Howle (Young Tony Webster), Freya Mavor (Young Veronica), Joe Alwyn (Adrian Finn), Peter Wight (Colin Simpson), Hilton McRae (Alex Stuart), Jack Loxton (Young Colin Simpson), Timothy Innes (Young Alex Stuart), Andrew Buckley (Adrian Junior), Karina Fernandez (Eleanor Marriott), Nick Mohammed (Postman Danny)

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Adapting Julian Barnes' 2011 novel, The Sense of an Ending stars Jim Broadbent as Tony Webster, the divorced owner of a small London shop that sells old, working secondhand cameras.
Tony signs for a certified mail delivery that reopens a chapter in his life from long ago. It turns out the mother of his secondary school girlfriend has passed away and in her will left him an item that has not been included in the mailing. It is a diary that belonged to neither him nor the girlfriend.

Nonetheless, the unfulfilled will is cause for flashbacks, depicting Tony as a thoughtful, mild-mannered young man (Billy Howle) who is smitten with Veronica (Freya Mavor), but also her mother (Emily Mortimer). Tony shares his experience with his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter), who is surprised to only now be hearing about his first love for the first time.

Unpredictable and nonlinear, Sense immerses us in Tony's present-day existence while harking back to his seemingly unremarkable youth. It often is unclear where our focus is meant to be fixed. Director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) and screenwriter Nick Payne (making his feature debut) take their time to flesh out Tony's past and to give us any indication as to the old mystery that is being solved.

"The Sense of an Ending" stars Jim Broadbent as a London shop owner whose past is on his mind as he pursues a journal that has been bequeathed to him.

Eventually, we come to know it involves Veronica (capably played in the present day by Charlotte Rampling), who is withholding the diary that has been legally bequeathed to Tony, as he pursues her to the point of stalking. The other narrative thread involves Susie (Michelle Dockery), Tony and Margaret's 36-year-old daughter who is giving birth seemingly on her own.

Broadbent, so frequently resigned to humorous scene-stealing support, is a highly compelling leading man here.
His big blue eyes burst with the mix of emotions his character is dealing with, from nostalgia to regret. Whether raising his voice at noisy children or making a fool of himself around the two women of his family, Broadbent makes old-fashioned Tony the kind of upper sexagenarian you might aspire to one day be.

Sense recalls Rampling's Oscar-nominated 45 Years in a number of ways, but it chooses to show us the past instead of merely telling us about it and lingering on its effects. The flashbacks never have as much impact as the present-day material and the relationship between the two timelines sometimes seems tenuous or confusing. Still, this is ultimately a mature human drama and so few of those are made that it is easy to appreciate for its depictions and emotional complexities.

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Reviewed March 17, 2017.

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