The Sense of an Ending

1hr 48mins | Rated M | Sex scenes & offensive language

Starring: Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer, Charlotte Rampling

The screen version of Julian Barnes’ award-winning novel is a rueful affair that unfolds with a quiet, autumnal elegance and proves that it is never too late to strive for redemption. Jim Broadbent offers a picture of blithe contentment as Tony Webster, a man who seems to have spent his life acting without much regard for the consequences. Retired, happily divorced and running a small camera shop, he inhabits a cosy, orderly little world.
His ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) and their pregnant daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) tolerate him but are always braced for the next faux pas, insensitive comment or selfish act.
Everything changes with the arrival of a letter that forces him to recall his youth and his first love Veronica (Freya Mavor). Veronica’s mother Sarah (Emily Mortimer) has died and unexpectedly bequeathed him a small amount of cash and a diary. Veronica is refusing to meet with him or pass on his inheritance.
The blast from the past pushes him towards remembering his frustrating infatuation with Veronica and a cherished friendship with fellow student Adrian (Joe Alwyn). Returning to the events of 50 years ago the film becomes a quest to make sense of what happened. We realise that Tony’s memory is unreliable at best and often warped by the need to justify his cruel actions.
Broadbent is such a comforting, familiar presence that we feel instinctively sympathetic to Tony. His irascibility and brusque manner are endearing and, like his family, we find him easy to forgive. But over the course of the film we come to understand that this jovial, self-centred individual is a blundering fool who never understood that the world doesn’t revolve around him.
Broadbent is surrounded by a very able supporting cast with Harriet Walter relishing a substantial role as the indulgent, sharp-witted Margaret, Emily Mortimer as fluttery and vulnerable as a caged bird and an impressive Billy Howle as the younger Tony.
There is also a short but terrific appearance from Charlotte Rampling as the older, still implacable Veronica. The film’s ending is a little too tidy and pleased with itself but that seems entirely in keeping with Tony’s nature. The Sense Of An Ending feels very literary and slightly predictable but lingers warmly in the memory and grows with hindsight.
Daily Express