Review: A great cast delivers in 'The Sense of an Ending'

Posted Monday, June 5, 2017 at 4:47 PM Central

by John Couture

Jim Broadbent is one of those actors that you simply know when you see him work his magic on the big screen. If you put a gun to my head and demanded that I name five of his films, I would struggle to name more than a couple.

Gangs of New York? Sure. The later Harry Potter films? Absolutely. After that, I would probably spout a bunch of films heavy on British actors and I'd hope to get lucky.

The fact of the matter is that Jim Broadbent is perhaps the most versatile British character actor, but he hasn't had as many chances to shine in the lead. The Sense of an Ending is a great testament that he's more than just a great character actor and that we may regret not having him in more starring roles as time goes by.

Regret is an interesting concept that, as it turns out, plays a pivotal role in The Sense of an Ending. Jim Broadbent plays Tony who is forced to confront his own memory and recollections when he's confronted with a different narrative through a series of events later in his life.

The book was split into two parts, one with Tony as a young man in school and then later in his life having to confront his past and some of his own misperceptions. It works in the book because of the linear nature of the medium, but I was curious how they would capture that element in the film.

As it turns out, there was no reason to be concerned as the filmmakers used a very effective technique where they intercut Jim Broadbent into his memories in place of his younger self. Not only did this allow them to use Jim Broadbent and his immense talents more, but it's a great visual way to convey the use of an unreliable narrator.

Of course, it's not that Tony is a traditional unreliable narrator, it's more a critique on our own ability to remember our own past. There's a great theme about how we play the ultimate editors of our lives. In much the same way that history is written by the winners, we tend to look back upon our past with rose-colored glasses. We tend to minimize the negative and amplify the positive.

As someone with two divorces in my past, I can certainly relate to some degree. When it comes to relationships, tend to vilify the other person and leave out the rather unsavory parts that we may have played in the course of events. I won't get into specifics so as to preserve some of the twists and turns of the film, but I found that I enjoyed the third act of the film much more than I liked the ending of the book. That usually never happens, but it's a testament to how much a great cast can elevate a story.

Jim Broadbent isn't the only star that shines in The Sense of an Ending. The cast is ripe with amazing actors that hit all the right marks during some very emotional ups and downs. In particular, Emily Mortimer and Charlotte Rampling are two actresses that may be less known to American audiences, but are tremendous and you should seek out their earlier work.

Another familiar face that fans of Downton Abbey will recognize is Michelle Dockery. We have loved her in the new series Good Behavior, so it's good to see her in a more traditional role. She's got great range and while her role is small here, it carries a great emotional touching stone for Tony and sort of holds the entire film together.

If you enjoy well-acted films that enjoy taking their time to unravel all of their mysteries, then you will love The Sense of an Ending. It is far from perfect, but it's a fun departure from standard Hollywood fare.

The Sense of an Ending is now available on DVD.