Film: “The Sense of an Ending”; Director: Ritesh Batra; Cast: Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer, Billy Howle, Freya Mavor, Charlotte Rampling, Joe Alwyn and James Wilby; Rating: **1/2
This film directed by Ritesh Batra is based on a novel of the same name by Julian Barnes which was released in 2011 and awarded the Man Booker Prize. Like the book, the film is a rather dark story, a mystery of infidelity, tragedy and missed opportunity. It packs some philosophical notions about the way we live our lives — making it a relatable, engaging and thought-provoking, character-driven drama.
It is the tale of Tony Webster, a cautious, divorced man in his late sixties who receives a legal letter by post informing him that he has bequest a diary from a woman he had met only once, during his college days. The woman was the mother of his girlfriend Veronica. The legacy unsettles Tony, pushing him to get in touch with Veronica. In doing so, he starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together, to unravel the mystery that began years ago.
While Tony’s past is the focal point of the plot, the screenplay seamlessly oscillates between the present and an era bygone, making it seem like a well-crafted, tastefully done and refined love drama on the surface. The wry British humour adds to the flourish. Despite this, the film falls short on making its mark.
Moving on a rather dull note, Nick Payne’s script and Ritesh Batra’s direction is sensitive and insightful. Yet, it leaves room for individual interpretation. Pertinent details from the novel that boost the character have been skipped, making this character-driven story feel oddly hollow. The plot seems definitely calculative and underwritten.
The cast is packed with an impressive list of English thespians who deliver heart-felt and layered performances. But particular mention goes to the central four, playing both old and young – Tony and Veronica.
In the older phase of their lives, the duo is portrayed by Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling, as pretty exasperating people, uneasy and awkward. While Charlotte is watchful, unforthcoming and enigmatic behind a chillingly cold stare, Jim plays his usually irritable self, alternating between a grumpy old man and a somewhat coarse human being especially when he darts tasteless, crude remarks carelessly — a trait which was evident in his youth too.
In the younger version, Billy Howle and Freya Mavor slip into the boots of the seniors rather effortlessly, though they do not resemble them. While Freya Mavor and Charlotte Rampling seem to be in perfect sync with their portrayal of young and old Veronica, there seems to be a glitch between Billy Howle and Jim Broadbent. Their personalities oddly juxtapose.
These four are aptly supported by Joe Alwyn as Adrian -Tony’s college friend whom he admired for his academic as well as his broad outlook on life, Michelle Dockery as Susie – Tony’s lesbian daughter who is pregnant and on the verge of delivering and Harriet Walter as Tony’s non-conformist and pragmatic wife Margaret.
On the technical front, the film is beautifully shot and mounted but there is nothing exceptional about this production.