We British have always been very good at showing the everyday, mundane life that people experience. It gives the British film industry an identity, like a painter’s signature style. The Sense of an Ending is a film that takes the mundane lifestyle of Tony Webster (played by Jim Broadbent) and adds subtle touches of mystery to it. The mystery of discovery about ourselves.
First, and this is very important to the viewer going to watch this film, it is not as crystal clear as implied. The film has two timelines that are separated equally to present the mystery of Tony’s past. There is the older Tony which has already been stated and the Young Tony (played by Billy Howle) during his time at school and university where he meets ex-girlfriend Veronica and best friend Adrian
The film very much centers around the idea of our past will come back to haunt us. Tony is a character who is about to step into this haunting and suffer the consequences for it. Director Ritesh Batra and screenwriter Nick Payne present to us the perfect characteristics of regret into Tony. His younger self was socially awkward but also arrogant and inpatient because of the snail’s pace relationship he had with Veronica. He eventually develops into a more appreciative man and takes more interest into the people around him. It is an impressive character transformation and one that can be followed in scenes involving Tony and a postman.
I was surprised to see the underline subjects in The Sense of an Ending, there was a heavy focus on younger Tony’s sexual frustration which was not at all implied during the films promotional material. Also, the rekindling of family connections played a major part in the films narrative progression. There is a side story involving Tony’s daughter’s pregnancy and fixing things with his ex-wife Margaret that are used to reveal the self-centered nature of Tony. These underline subjects create a more well-rounded character in Tony resulting in the audience sympathise with him because of his relatability.
Jim Broadbent is one of the finest British actors and it certainly shows with his performance. He provides a vulnerable side to Tony and his expressionism pours information to the audience about his character’s loneliness and need for others around him, another characteristic that is brought out in scene involving his family. Billy Howle and younger Veronica played by Freya Mavor are also exceptional, their romance is very believable and the slowness in their relationship is brought out well.
British films have a tendency to be very slow and very dragged out, it separates the boring from the engaging. The Sense of an Ending unfortunately falls into the dragging out category of British films. It is very slow to start off with but does admittedly slowly start to show moments of engagement. Where I can forgive the films slow pacing, I can’t forgive the lack of importance in various storylines. Point in case, the mystery surrounding the existence of Adrian’s diary that has been promised to Tony is instantly dropped, I’m also sure that we never find out the truth about the diary in the film as well but I could be wrong. When a film has many storylines, it is my belief that they must share the same importance and that everything should be neatly wrapped to that is both satisfactory to the audience and satisfactory to the film itself, The Sense of an Ending fails to do this with the mystery of the diary.
I do understand that the film is very character centered, however the films focus is so divided with make its enjoyment even more difficult to find. Furthermore, as this is a character driven story, the amount of time and care should be revealed through their treatment on film yes? Well not exactly in the case of The Sense of an Ending. Character development is found somewhere but one would have to venture through a jungle of unnecessary dialogue and long silences in between characters talking in some scenes. The dialogue in this film is for the most part very good, but there are scenes where the dialogue brings nothing for the characters. For example, during a scene involving young Tony having dinner with Young Veronica’s family, the scene fells very awkward and dull. Some may argue that the scene is very close to real life as meeting someone’s parents for the first time can be awkward, however it is the dialogue that makes the scene feel unnecessary or at most could be shortened down.
All in all, I do like the mystery that surrounds the film, yet I feel that this film is very much rushed onto cinema screens to fill the gap, I think that film would have a bigger reputation and an even stronger reception if it had been made for TV. Nevertheless, I applaud director Ritesh Batra for his work in recreating these strong characters and has given the book it was adapted from justice. If the film had a more engaging pace then maybe I would have a much greater viewing experience.