The Sense of an Ending, directed by Ritesh Batra, is a film that struggles with its pacing; some of the film can feel slow and meandering – but it’s all worth it. The growth of the main character; how the story is slowly fed to you over the course of the film; how it all comes together in a satisfying package. ‘The Sense of an Ending’ is a film that some will struggle with, but if you give it a chance, you will find something sweet and rewarding at the end of it all. But let’s dispense with the intro and get on with the main review itself.
We follow, Tony Webster – played by Jim Broadbent – who is thrust back into the forgotten memories of his youth. We learn of the struggles and the wrongdoings of his time as a young man, and how they deeply affect who he becomes as an adult. At the same time we see what life offers to Tony post retirement, and how the sins of the past could perhaps now help reshape who he is now.
So it can’t be denied that, The Sense of an Ending has some pacing issues – the first act of the film perhaps being the one that suffers the most. It feels like it takes forever for any progress to be made. It may not be the case, but it did feel like the film was trying to fill time by having scenes play-out longer than they needed to. I mean, I’m certainly not someone who is averse to a film taking its time and setting things up in the way it wants, but ‘The Sense of an Ending’ does it in a way that feels counterintuitive (at times) to the overall story and the characters within it.
I suppose one benefit of its pace was that it meant there was plenty of time for elements to be set up and properly explored. I certainly felt everything got the time and attention that is needed/deserved. I only wish it wasn’t, at times, a struggle to stay attentive.
But, in the grand scheme of it all, it is all definitely worth it. The story that the film ultimately weaves is one that slowly but surely pulls you in and causes you to feel. And it is presented and approached in a way that you connect and care for the characters involved. In the beginning, not everything is clear, and you also have a few preconceived assumptions of how things will/did play-out. And it is those assumptions that help keep you invested, as when the payoff comes and you begin to learn just what happened all those years ago — well it certainly changes everything you first thought.
Tony’s history and current life are not a black and white situation. There are layers to it all; layers that produce moral conundrums and questions. This in turn kept, Tony a forever evolving character; my assessments of him; my opinion of him kept changing as the film would dole out more information, more revelations. There were moments where I felt I really understood him and felt a kinship with him. And then there were other times were I was disgusted by his actions, and had my entire outlook on him shifted. It was a continually evolving experience, being a part of his journey.
And that journey is one of growth. The Tony we meet at the beginning of the film is not the same, Tony we know by the end. And for me, I found that really rewarding. I felt that both he and I had accomplished something: He righted some serious wrongs and faced up to his mistakes – he grew as a person and made the effort to change. Meanwhile I invested in the journey of someone who I at first wasn’t fully interested in, and came out the other end feeling that I had been a part of a story that was meaningful and memorable.
It is in Tony’s story and who he is as a person that this film really shines. The supporting cast of characters around him are however mixed. I didn’t connect to any of them like I did, Tony. Some of them certainly shone: Tony’s ex-wife, Margaret – played by Harriet Winters – being a perfect example. The bond that still existed between them and the very honest conversations that the two of them have, were always such richly written, acted and executed scenes. And like much of this film, they’re relationship evolves into something really satisfying and also endearing — Tony’s speech to her in the hospital waiting room was just wonderful.
There are certainly other standouts: Tony and Veronica’s troubled, but at times sweet relationship being one of the major one (it is the main thrust of the story after all). It takes you all over the place, emotionally, and it really throws some curveballs your way. I would have liked some more interactions between, Tony and Veronica in the present, but I am at least happy that I got any at all, because they really hits you with some emotional gut punches when they happen.
I think the last point I want to make has to do with the infamous ‘British stiff upper-lip.’ There were a few occasions where I felt the film didn’t go as deep into something as it could have and part of that has to do with just how closed off some of the characters seemed. Moments where I was expecting an explosion of emotion, was instead just a hint of it. I could see there was something more elaborate within them but it just didn’t ever come out. Thankfully it didn’t mar the poignancy of many of the films moments, but it was still something that was present and nagging at me.
In the end though, The Sense of an Ending delivered a beautiful little British film. It had subtle yet powerful performances; characters who offered so much, and a story that (took its time to find its footing) but by the conclusion had me completely at its will.
And so I will be recommending The Sense of an Ending. Definitely a film worth your time; one that will not necessarily make a huge impact, but one that will still leave its mark on you.
So what are your thoughts on the film, or my review? Let me know in the comments down below. Feel free to follow my blog directly, and you can also follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review and I hope to see you return.