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2018 Winter Film Festival

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Sunday Sept. 17, 2017 4:00pm
Rainbow Theatre, Northumberland Mall, Cobourg

Sense of an endingTony Webster's life of habit and routine is upturned by a solicitor's letter which awakens a troubling incident from the past involving his first love.
Incidents are placed like jigsaw pieces in this well-crafted story that emerges with the ghosts of a romance from decades ago, turning up again to haunt the present. The actors turn in performances that fit the characters and their quirks as they were originally conceived on the page. Comparisons are inevitable, and readers will be pleased that the movie does credit to its origins as an award winning novel. It all makes sense in the end.

Leads:  Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Genre: Romance, drama  Language: English
Run Time: 108Min  Rating: PG-13

Review by Richard Alaba

Everyone is a storyteller in their own way. Some use the big screen, others a book or a painter’s canvas, but most of us tell stories to ourselves. In 1967, acclaimed literary theorist Professor Frank Kermode published a seminal book called The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. He argued that we all internally write the fictions of our lives into a coherent pattern so things appear to have a logical beginning, a middle and an ending. We do this to make it possible to “coexist with temporal chaos” in order to “humanise the common death”. This philosophical insight inspired the 2011 Julian Barnes novel of the same name that is now adapted in the film The Sense of an Ending (2017). Joining these dots help us to understand what this film is about.

Sense of an endingThe film plot is simple but the story complex. Retired divorcee Tony (Jim Broadbent) is known as a curmudgeon by his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) and daughter Suzie (Michelle Dockery). He busies himself in his tiny shop selling second-hand Leica cameras when one day a lawyer’s letter arrives that reopens memories of his first love. What follows is a jigsaw of glimpses into an old man’s obsessive quest for redemption as he becomes haunted by an act of spite that he believes led to the suicide of his best friend. When he renews contact with his first love Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) he must confront unresolved emotions that were buried beneath the fictions he has constructed about his life.

This slow and serious film is not for everyone. Younger people are too busy making memories to be rewriting the story of their lives. Older audiences will recognise what Tony is experiencing and empathise with his need for a ‘sense of an ending’. Despite the film’s stellar cast and fine acting, none of the characters are especially likeable, so it is possible to leave this film disengaged with the people while having been thoroughly immersed in the story. This is a well-directed dialogue-driven film. Its multiple flashbacks capture the disjointed half recalled fragments that many of us store as life memories. Most of all, it is an introspective and insightful essay on how we make sense of our lives.

Review by Derek Winnert

Giving his best performance in years, Jim Broadbent is outstanding in a big, fat, meaty star role he is ideal for in a moving and haunting adaptation of Julian Barnes’s 2012 bestseller. If there is a sense that the ending is a bit too optimistic, almost a happy ending, well, why not? This would be a very gloomy movie otherwise. It is also, like the rest of film, a bit enigmatic, subtle and elusive, so that’s good.

Sense of an endingNick Payne manages the difficult job of adapting the novel for the screen, effortlessly shifting from past to present as the spotlight is put on the ever so slightly smug and grumpy ageing Clapham camera shop owner Tony Webster, who is haunted by the consequences of his act of vicious bad behaviour in the long-ago past when he is presented with a mysterious legacy. Now, to move on, he has to confront the actual truth of his life story not the comfortable memory he has of it.

Director Ritesh Batra (2013’s The Lunchbox) handles it all very neatly and cleanly, no trouble at all, getting mood, atmosphere, pace and characters all just right. Despite a clutch of good performances from good actors, it is Broadbent’s film. Charlotte Rampling as Veronica Ford, the woman Nick starts obsessing over and stalking in the present, and especially Harriet Walter as his ex-wife and constant friend Margaret Webster are just perfect too.

The past isn’t nearly as interesting, but Billy Howle as young Nick and Freya Mavor as young Veronica are striking and get the job done nicely. Just about everybody gets enough screen time to shine.

Trailer