The Sense of An Ending, directed by Ritesh Batra of The Lunchbox fame, is based on the Man Booker Prize – winning novel by Julian Barnes. Boasting outstanding actors Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walter, and Charlotte Rampling, the drama also features wonderful performances by Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer, Billy Howle, Joe Alwyn, Freya Mavor, and Matthew Goode. Set to open in New York and LA, Friday, March 10th, the film opens in North America on March 17th and in India on March 24th.
The Sense of An Ending is set both in the 60s and in modern day England. According to the director, the film is ‘a story of Tony Webster, a late middle aged English guy who goes on an incredible journey and reconnects with his first love, played by Charlotte Rampling, and discovers things about himself that help him mend his relationship with both his ex-wife and his pregnant daughter.’ But that just touches the essence of the film.
First let’s set the scene with the trailer.
I did not read the book before watching the film and so was experiencing all this for the first time. Therefore, I can’t judge the accuracy of the novel’s adaptation. Taking it just as a film, I enjoyed every moment of it. Nick Payne has written a brilliant screenplay that intertwines and weaves together a multitude of stories, times and characters and their relationships both in memory and reality. Each new revelation, both in the past and in the present, is presented slowly but in pitch-perfect moments that make you want to see more, feel more and know more. I was thrilled, nervous, confused, entranced, moved, and couldn’t wait to find out where the plot would lead.
Ritesh Batra’s direction is in one word, amazing. He handles the many layers and characters perfectly and creates a world that you feel is completely real. The journey and the emotion of Tony’s story was filled out in so many ways and so well done. You see and are in the past in the 60s. You are present in the present day and are going through every emotion Tony is going through as he does. It never seems false – it never seems contrived. Transitions between the past and the present, no matter the duration of the the scenes, are never jarring – it is just a part of the story. Batra takes you in, gives you so much, and then lets you go to think and want to watch it all over again. It is that good.
There are so many moments that stand out: the wave Sarah gives as Tony is leaving the house, the beginning with the bathtub and you are not sure who that is or what happened, older Tony walking through his memories in the 60s, the quiet moments where the eyes of the actors tell you everything, and seeing the characters in Tony’s memories and in their present day lives and how this one past series of events changed the lives of so many. It is cinematic brilliance.
The performances are superb, brilliant, outstanding, and many, many more adjectives. Every note, hit by every actor, was perfect. I never felt as if anyone was playing a character, they were the Websters, the Fords, both young and old. Every person we met on the way to the revelation and the end was real not reel.
Jim Broadbent’s ability to reveal his soul was mesmerizing in The Sense of An Ending. He spoke volumes with just a look. His transformation from someone sort of stuck, to trying to remember and find out what happened; his frustration, his confusion, and then his almost freedom and awakening was incredible to watch. I can see no other actor playing this role with such feeling, and, at the same time, strength. You just sit back in awe of his performance and it stays with you. Even now, weeks later, I can still see and feel his Tony Webster. He is the movie. We see his soul.
Charlotte Rampling playing the older Veronica brought depth, anger, and pain to the story. She also accused and spoke her feelings in a look. I did not understand her at first, and did not see how she was the same person as the young Veronica, but in the end you find out and you understand.
Harriet Walker wonderfully takes the pain, frustration, and the confusion of her life and her underlying love and puts it out there in every word she speaks and every look she gives. Her character is not one to love, but she plays it perfectly.
Emily Mortimer is a light in the film. She plays the role of a seductress so quietly that you are not sure that it is happening. She is wonderful in this character. She has always been a favorite of mine and I loved seeing her in this film.
Billy Howle as the Young Tony presents all the gravity that the older Tony has as well as the shyness and the longing. You feel his pain too. He is Tony and that is the highest compliment I can give.
Freya Mavor is the wilder, freer version of Veronica and she plays it cool but at the same time on the edge. Another impressive performance.
Also mention must be made of Michelle Dockery and Joe Alwyn for their strong performances that added even more to the story and the feeling of the film.
There were moments were I was genuinely confused. I was not sure who was who and what was going on and it made me uncomfortable, but I think that was the point. Tony was going through all this and so was I as an audience. I wanted to know, and I knew if I made it through the mystery with Tony I would get most of my answers in the end.
The Sense of An Ending certainly lives up to its name because in the end you are given a sense of closure but still many questions left to think about and answers to discover for yourself.
With the incredible cast lead by the brilliant Jim Broadbent and the outstanding Ritesh Batra directing, The Sense of An Ending is a mesmerizing film that stays with you even when the screen goes black. It is a film you must experience!