Far removed from the glossiness and glitter that is the Hollywood filmmaking engine, deeply human British dramas produced by BBC Films usually hit the mark. In the hands of bigger American studios, the contrived nature of the scripts and producer massaged narrative changes are really just vehicles for their stars to shine more often than not but the United Kingdom seems to focus more on their storytelling rather than how they will sell it to the mass public. Case in point is The Sense Of An Ending, a film I had no clue about until the press screening email hit my inbox. Without reading anything about it, I headed to the theater for a look at it.
The film is about Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent), a retired and divorced aging Londoner who spends his days running a small specialty camera shop, selling vintage Leica cameras. He has an amicable relationship with his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) and is the support system for his daughter (Michelle Dockery) who, after a bit of a midlife crisis, has decided to get artificially inseminated and raise her forthcoming son on her own. Now, in the final weeks of her pregnancy, she is reluctantly relying on her dad to get her to her appointments and to be her partner in the prenatal classes. When the last will and testament notice from the mother of an ex-girlfriend is delivered to his house, Tony finds that old decisions come back to haunt him in his present reality as he tries to pinpoint exactly where everything changed for him.
The Sense Of An Ending takes on its brand of melodrama with a layered approach. As soon as Tony is prompted to remember the one major relationship in his past that changed the course of his life, he begins to take a microscope to this time. Slowly, he starts to realize that some truths he believed for decades are something he may have fabricated and padded up a bit to make things easier to forget. Entwined in the infatuation he had for his original dream girl Veronica, is her alluring mother, played by Emily Mortimer, and a schoolmate with a dark penchant for Dylan Thomas and the subject of suicide, three people directly responsible for the man Tony became.
The cast of this movie could almost be just anybody with the blueprint of this human mystery being so compelling, so the fact that everyone is so spot on is just an added bonus. Broadbent elevates this movie by shining with veteran prowess every time he’s on screen and the actor that plays his younger version, Billy Howle, exhibits the same subtle nuances of Tony. It’s a really great pairing. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the really great but small supporting turn from Charlotte Rampling, proving why she is one of the best veteran actresses in the business. With a simple look, she can convey so much pain, history and bottled emotions, a total ground shaker of a performer that draws you in anytime she appears. If you’re looking for a solid British melodrama that will string you along until a satisfying but debatable conclusion, go see this film. 4/5