The Sense Of An Ending

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Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Sense Of An Ending
"No defense against a life less lived"

Some novels make great movies. Others don't. This is a fine example of the latter, perforated with memorable performances and tastefully directed by Ritesh Batra. But, hey!, where's the plot?

It lives! In hiding.

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Stained with the blood of past relationships, nostalgic to a fault, weakened by a failure of character as if the fear of confrontation is an excuse for shyness and the inability to make choices when they matter is no defense against a life less lived.

Fiction writers, such as Julian Barnes, upon whose novel this is based, understand the nuances, emotional shorthand and idiocy of the human condition. It works better in prose because film is a visual medium, tempered by clever scripts (if you are lucky) or ruined by foolish ones (if not).

Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) has passed his sell-by date and witters away what years he has left in a second-hand camera shop. He has an ex-wife (Harriet Walter) and a pregnant daughter who belongs to a lesbian mothers group. They call him The Mudge - short for "curmudgeon".

The film flips between his solitary selfish now and his youthful cowardly then. At uni he had friends although was never the prime mover. He bumped into a girl called Veronica at a party from which both were trying to escape and accidentally became attached. Sex, when it happened, was a botched back seat car job, or masturbating into the sink in an attic room at her parents' place. Love, passion, suicide and commitment were for others.

Tony is haunted by memories of Veronica and her mother (Emily Mortimer) and an aptitude for passive excitement. He talks to his ex-wife and tells her stuff she never knew. She's a lawyer who accuses him of "a total inability to see what's right in front of your nose".

As the confessions of a repressed youth in the years before the pill Barnes' book is as premature an ejaculation as they come. The film is more a study of an old man's fantasy of resurrecting feelings for the older Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) while ignoring the realities of his immediate family.

Broadbent makes you care because that's what he does. As an actor who began in comedy and continues in the darker truths he outpaces Bill Murray in the subtle art of empathy for the disgruntled.

Reviewed on: 12 Apr 2017
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A second-hand camera dealer remembers his university years when relationships were scarred with tragedy and desire while living a life of selfish isolation
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Director: Ritesh Batra

Writer: Nick Payne, based on the novel by Julian Barnes

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer, James Wilby, Edward Holcroft, Billy Howle, Freya Mavor, Joe Alwyn, Peter Wight, Hilton McRae, Jack Loxton, Timothy Innes

Year: 2017

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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