Jim Broadbent is one of our finer actors. In fact, he is such a staple of British cinema that it isn’t technically classed as a Great Britain film. He even narrates roughly 99%* of our adverts when they aren’t being narrated by Sean Bean. Ok, so maybe he isn’t as prolific as we may suspect but, still, the Academy Award winning Broadbent is a wildly popular addition to any film including colourful musicals, Scottish black comedies, and a lot of Christmas films.
Now he takes the lead in drama film The Sense of an Ending.
Based on a book by Julian Barnes and directed by Ritesh Batra, the unfurling mystery film revolves around a divorcee, Tony, who plods along running a classic camera shop and tending to his pregnant daughter’s needs. Still keeping in touch with his ex-wife Margaret, he is somewhat content but grumpy, plodding along with a disdain for the public. However, his world is turned upside down when the mother of an ex-girlfriend dies and inherits him with a sum of money and a diary. In this act, Tony finds himself reminiscing over his past loves and a particular interest with a turbulent girl…
Jim Broadbent is completely compelling as Tony. No matter how abhorrent the character is (and, trust me, he is on a thin line between dislikable arsehole and amicable ‘curmudgeon,’ you always feel in safe and full-rounded hands. Broadbent is watchable and believable, he enters the murky world of Tony with ease and manages to come up with some terrific emotions. He is supported by the fantastic Charlotte Rampling (who is highly underused) and Harriet Walter, who gift Broadbent an excellent rapport.
The story and the narrative is the definition of plodding. The Sense of an Ending never feels complete; it struggles to balance the themes present with a somewhat tepid mystery. The movie unfolds so infuriatingly slowly that by the time the big revelation lands, it’s more of a shrug than a shock. Granted, perhaps The Sense of an Ending never really promised us this tale with a big bang motive but with a beguiling title, a powerful cast, and an interesting trailer, there was something of a pledge that was never delivered. And speaking of titular assurances, there isn’t a proper conclusion either. It tackles this hefty subject with barely a pause, swiftly skimming the ramifications as though they didn’t matter, pinning the revelation on Tony who has little to no connection to it. As an audience, we feel completely short-changed.
On a neither here or there point but it’s highly distracting, Billy Howle, who plays a young Tony, looks so much like Eddie Redmayne. So. Much.
One may suspect that the point of The Sense of an Ending was that life eventually moves on. You can dabble in the waters of the past but have to leave before they drown you. You can only be a pin-drop in someone else’s water. And you have to ebb along with time. In some ways, Batra’s work conveys this, becoming something of an ambiguous ending, where the “sense” is never definitive.
The Sense of an Ending is out 14th April
*statistic totally made up.