AN EMPIRE OF WORDS

The Sense of an Ending (2017)

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It’s not often I am enticed into films with romantic twists hidden beneath it’s depths. But there was something about the The Sense of an Ending that had enticed me, probably down to the intriguing Jim Broadbent character professing he thought he had “more time”.

The Sense of an Ending was adapted from the popular Julian Barnes novel for the big screen, with Jim Broadbent taking the central role of Tony Webster. It takes place over two different time periods. It opens with Tony (Billy Howle) in his younger days as he leaves sixth form and enters the university period of his life. The centralised Jim Broadbent fills his boots with the role of Tony Webster as he approaches the latter stages of his years.

Grumpy. That’s potentially the best way to describe Jim Broadbent’s Tony as you can immediately sense dissatisfaction in his life and the on goings around it, including his strained relationship with his pregnant single daughter. He lives day-to-day, until receiving a letter in the post saying he’s been left a diary by his old girlfriend’s mother.

After receiving the letter, Jim Broadbent indeed becomes the befuddled character that is brilliant for him. The character of Tony Webster on the other end becomes a despicable character as the story bores into it’s latter half of the 100+ minute runtime. He becomes entwined with his ex-girlfriend Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) in the present day, demanding he sees the diary.

But as this happens, it becomes a quite confusing mess and I found myself asking the question, why? Especially as the film tries to pile on a twist, that doesn’t play out as expected. I imagine that the twist was more effective in the book as it played out, but I feel as though it didn’t quite work on screen.

Much of the promotional material featured Jim Broadbent in this hurried frenzy exclaiming that he thought he had more time. I thought the Julian Barnes’ adaptation would feature time as a prolonged theme throughout, but it rather becomes about how one looks back on their lives and how they remember it.

I personally couldn’t get to grips with the characters, as I found the relationships to quite unbelievable to a certain degree. This is probably down to those playing, as they seem fairly rigid and casual about their continued relationships with one another. But Ritesh Batra managed to compact the film in just shy of 110 minutes, which was a good length, it just faltered at other points during the film.

Contrasting the youthful Tony versus the older Tony worked well as the story is built around this event that transpired between Tony and Veronica during their student days. But this event (which I shan’t divulge for fear of spoilers) is really underwhelming. And that tonally set the mark for me for The Sense of an Ending.

Aside from the acting that was on display, I found little to enjoy about this film. As I mentioned, I found the big reveal underwhelming, which left the rest of the film in a confusing state. But it wasn’t enjoyable to watch Jim Broadbent wander round London and his house trying to reminisce about his relationship with Veronica from forty years ago. Although the acting was great, the characters were not as you find young Tony to be a pretentious know-it-all with his friends and the strange relationships that he embarks upon.

There may have been a deeper philosophical meaning driven through Tony’s best friend Adrian, but I feel under everything else The Sense of an Ending was trying to achieve, that message was lost. I just did not get along with it, nor it characters and left the film really rather underwhelmed.

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Author: Nathan Harris

Currently studying Film & Television studies and Media Writing at Derby University. Hopefully wanting to become a film critic/journalist.

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