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ADVANCE: The Sense of an Ending - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
ADVANCE: The Sense of an Ending
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

If your patience is easily tested, I would not recommend The Sense of an Ending, which starts off -- and then continues for a while -- feeling like it should have been called Is There an Ending?

This feels like the kind of story that perhaps by default works better as a novel. Indeed, the script is based on the Julian Barnes novel by the same name, and it details an older man, Tony (Jim Broadbent), broadsided by a diary having been left to him in a will by the mother of his onetime college girlfriend.

I got a little lost in the shuffle of whose diary it was exactly, and took a while to glean that it was Veronica, the ex-girlfriend (played in older age by Charlotte Rampling), who was refusing to allow Tony to have it even though it was willed to him. I suspect all this was made clearer in the novel, which I have not read, but much of the story pertains to Tony's self-delusions, evidently repressed memories, and what kind of relationship he really had with Veronica's mother (played in flashbacks by Emily Mortimer).

Everything in the direction by Ritesh Batra (who also directed the fantastic 2014 movie The Lunchbox) is clearly very deliberate and precise, every detail honed incredibly carefully. This is the case even in the earlier scenes, in which Tony begins to tell his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter), with whom he's still very friendly, his version of the story regarding himself, Veronica, and his best friend Adrian.

These scenes really take their time, both the conversations between Tony and Margaret, and the flashbacks detailing his relationships with Veronica and Adrian, who wind up in a relationship with each other. A whole lot of information is revealed throughout, but you really have to be paying attention. The plot moves forward so slowly that at first this can be a challenge.

That said, sticking with it can also be rewarding. The Sense of an Ending gets much more compelling in the second half, especially once Tony locates present-day Veronica, and even as he deals with his single-mom pregnant daughter Susie (played by Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery), and can't seem to understand he's literally stalking her, even though by turns both Margaret and Susie tell him it's what he's doing.

As such, after an extended period of slow build, in the middle of The Sense of an Ending but find yourself suddenly realizing how uncomfortable everything has gotten. In other words, if you can stay awake long enough to get there, the payoff in the story is worth the wait. At least, if you are compelled by uncomfortable emotional tension.

I do wish the truth of what happened between the characters forty years in the past were made clearer, but that also seems to be part of the point: the unreliability of memory, and the distortion of denial. Tony must face these things, to some degree, four decades after all the events in question. It's strange for a film that only runs 108 minutes to feel so long, and yet have a forty-year gap in the story. But Tony's relatively unremarkable life in between these two dramatic bookends is part of the point.

In the end, I was glad I saw it. The Sense of an Ending is a well-acted, competent offering of dramatic cinema. I can't think who else I would tell to see it though.

Charlotte Rampling and Jim Broadbent get THE SENSE OF AN ENDING.

Overall: B
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