Memories – and what really happened

Jim Broadbent in The Sense of an Ending (CBS Films/Robert Viglasky)

The Sense of an Ending is a gently paced British-American drama that explores the fallibility of human memory.

Based on the Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name written by Julian Barnes in 2011, The Sense of an Ending tells the story of an elderly divorced man who receives a letter informing him of a death, which sparks haunting memories of events that happened decades before. The movie makes heavy use of flashback.

Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) lives a lonely life as owner-manager of a camera shop in London. His first love, Veronica (Freya Mavor) is still living, and he is divorced from his wife, Margaret (Harriet Walter) with whom he has maintained contact. Margaret and Tony have a lesbian daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery), who is pregnant.

Tony is shaken by the letter's news that Veronica's mother (Emily Mortimer) has died, and that she has willed something to him that her daughter Veronica, now a grown woman (Charlotte Rampling), is refusing to give him: the diary of his close school friend, Adrian (Andrew Buckley), which contains some very uncomfortable secrets.

Looking for emotional support for his disturbing recollections, Tony shares his past with Margaret. He tells her secrets that deeply affected his relationships with Veronica and Adrian, and which he thinks are related to Adrian's suicide years earlier.

The technology that surrounds delivery of the film's imagery is impressive. With the help of fluid flashback images, personalities and conversations from one period intriguingly interact and intersect with images from a different time, creating vivid memories that appear to be in the process of unfolding.

The movie illustrates compellingly how human memories can be selective and edited conveniently to provide human comfort. Tony has a version of the past which does not reflect actual truth, and as viewers, we slowly come to realise that he is colouring our interpretation of what really happened. Unintentionally, Tony is embellishing his recollections, and remembers "only half the story".

This is a finely detailed, gently modulated film that penetratingly explores the fallibility of human memory. It maintains a sense of unfolding mystery and richly deserves to be seen.

- Reviewed by Peter W. Sheehan, ACOFB

The Sense of an Ending: Starring Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walter, Charlotte Rampling, Emily Mortimer, Freya Mavor, Michelle Dockery, Andrew Buckley. Directed by Ritesh Batra. Rated M (Mature themes, sex scenes and coarse language). 108 min.


The Sense of an Ending (ACOFB)

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