2 out of 5 stars
As life continues on and the realities of life set in, it is easy to catch yourself pondering whether you have had on impact on the world and others lives. The Sense of an Ending looks into the life of Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) who is at a stage in life where he has to come to terms with the decisions he has made in his life. Based on the award-winning novel by Julian Barnes and brought to screens by up and coming director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox), they tackle the philosophical effect that each person has on others and how the ripples of each decision wash over people’s lives.
Tony Webster’s life seems to be a series of patterns that have turned into redundant habits. Yet, through the narration of his story, there are hints of regrets and a desire to escape the curmudgendcy of his life. He walks through life carrying regrets and the evidence that most of his decisions tie back to his younger days. It is one of these past decisions that eventually shocks him out of the provincial lifestyle he has chosen. He receives a letter from the estate of Sarah Ford (Emily Mortimer) who has left him a diary of one of his best high school friends, Adrian Fin (Joe Alwyn). The challenge is that the journal is in the possession of Veronica Ford (Charlotte Rampling) who is his former girlfriend who had left Tony for a life with Adrian. In an attempt to retrieve the diary of his friend, Tony unearths some of the darker elements of his past. He must come to terms with his past and what impact it has on his current life and his family.
Julian Barnes’ story touches on some of the biggest questions in life, does my life matter and how do I affect others? These are questions that can be considered at any age, but it is more pronounced throughout the latter stages of life. Tony Webster’s story will be familiar to many and the answers may not be as comforting as one may hope. This is the knife’s edge of the narrative when the adventures of his youth are more compelling than where the journey has brought him to in life. Jim Broadbent is almost too convincing in his role as the curmudgeon and barely exudes any appealing characteristics. His performance produces an underlying vicious nature and overall negativity that takes this character to the limits of being repulsive. It is difficult to believe that the strong and fascinating women he has in the various stages of life would have found him worth considering. Harriet Walther (The Crown) continues to prove that she is the queen of beautiful understatement as Tony’s ex-wife and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) manages to play to her strengths as the spurned pregnant daughter. They made for a depressing, but a convincing family triangle, but Charlotte Rampling (45 years) proves to be the under-utilised talent in the film. Her character is central to the story, but she seems to be an afterthought in the script.
Broadbent’s performance and character are salvaged by the flashback elements of his biographical sketch. This is where the heart of the drama lies and the young acting troupe that provide the love triangle give the audience hope that there is redemption to be had in this man’s life.
The Sense of an Ending is compelling, but exceptionally dispiriting. There are a few glimmers of light humour that enter into this dark journey, but it was hard to enjoy. A well-told story, but was it one that anyone will care to experience?
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
The Sense of an Ending has been told from a multitude of angles throughout history. The analysis of how our lives effect others has been at the heart of mankind throughout history. This is a film that rips open the wounds caused by past sins and attempts to answer the question of how each life decision has effects that ripple throughout time. In the search for the answer to the question of how we are to treat others throughout our lives, it was answered through the words of Jesus. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
This sounds easy enough and straight forward, but for most people it does not prove to be that easy to do. Why? Because the ability to practice loving our neighbours, friends, family and enemies can only be based in the first part of his answer. Loving others can only truly be experienced by loving God first, because He first loved us. To be clear, people can love without God, but they can never understand the true meaning of love without His presence in their lives. It is only by God’s power that we truly can understand what it means to love our neighbour.
The answer of loving others comes directly from the love of God. They go hand in hand.