The Sense of an Ending, directed by Ritesh Batra (written by Nick Payne, based on the novel by Julian Barnes), is a quiet British drama about a 60-something man in London (Tony Webster, played by Jim Broadbent), who sells and repairs Leica cameras, talks regularly with his ex-wife (Margaret, played by Harriet Walter) and accompanies his daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery) to her Lamaze classes. Tony isn’t a very friendly or likeable person, but he tries to behave properly and lead a good life. Then one day he receives a letter from a lawyer indicating that the diary of his best friend in college has been left to him in a will. Unfortunately, the woman who is in possession of the diary refuses to part with it.
Suddenly confronted with memories long forgotten or repressed, Tony turns to a reluctant Margaret for support. As he recounts his college days and tries to track down the diary, Tony will learn things about himself that will change his life.
Broadbent is perfectly cast and I enjoyed every minute of his performance. The entire film follows Tony, though much of the time he is played by Bill Howle (Tony’s younger self). Veronica Ford, a major character in Tony’s college life, is played by Freya Mavor (and by Charlotte Rampling when older). The acting in the present-day part of the film is universally outstanding, but the acting of the younger folks doesn’t match up. Indeed, the film’s key flaw is that its many flashbacks are much less interesting, despite the revelations, than the story of Tony’s present life.
Many of the scenes from that present life are filmed in Highgate, where I lived for seven and a half years, which made the film particularly fun to watch.
The Sense of an Ending is far from perfect, with the flashbacks contributing to a sense of uneven pacing, but it’s a wonderfully humanizing story with a great actor at its core and gets a solid ***+ from me. My mug is up.