The Sense of an Ending

Posted on February 27, 2017 at 8:27 am

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, a violent image, sexuality and brief strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Suicides
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: March 10, 2017
Copyright CBS Films 2016

Life is messy. Stories are our way of cleaning it up to help us try to make sense of it. Some of those stories are in books or movies, but most of those stories are just the editing each of us does all the time in telling ourselves and others who we are. Whether it is explaining to a traffic cop why you should not get a ticket or the difference between the “how we met” story of a couple who are still together and one who has split up, or living in a version of Lake Woebegone, “where all the children are above average,” all of us burnish the truth a little to make ourselves feel better and look better.

Julian Barnes’ award-winning novel The Sense of an Ending is the story of a older man who has to rethink the stories he has told himself and realign his understanding of his life. On screen, the delicacy of the performances stands in for the lyricism of his prose.

Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) is semi-retired, the owner of a store that sells vintage cameras, and kind of semi-married, with a warm, companionable relationship with his lawyer ex-wife, Margaret (Harriet Walter, with a voice like a dry martini). Their daughter Susie (“Downton Abbey’s” Michelle Dockery) loves her dad, but finds him exasperating. She is pregnant, and says that her child will call him “Mudge,” for curmudgeon.

The camera store is significant. The vintage cameras are superbly crafted and in some ways better than digital cameras, but they are expensive and complicated and considered obsolete by most people. Tony identifies with the underappreciated quality of the instruments of precision and gets some satisfaction with being out of step with modern technology and mores.

But his romanticized view of the past is put into sharper focus (those cameras again) when he gets a letter about a bequest from a woman he had not seen since he was in his 20’s, when he was dating a woman named Veronica, and visited her family. After he and Veronica broke up, she dated his close friend Adrian, who later committed suicide. Now Veronica’s mother has left him Adrian’s journal, but that raises many questions: Why did she want him to have it? Where did she get it?

And where is it?  Her letter says it is enclosed, but it is not. Tony could let it go, but he stubbornly insists on seeing what it is, without considering where it might lead.

We go back in time, the moments and even the gestures mirroring the present as Tony explores the past and reconsiders many of his most fundamental assumptions about how he has lived his life. Veronica (now played with quiet fury by Charlotte Rampling) will not let him to have the journal. Instead she gives him something else, a letter that will make Tony confront one of his most painful and shameful experiences and open up to his ex-wife as he never has before.

The honesty of story’s portrayal of the foolish and selfish mistakes we make and the hurt they can inflict on people around us is tempered by the film’s tenderness toward its characters and the sensitivity of the performances, especially Broadbent and Walter. It judges them less than Tony is pushed to judge himself, and that is why it is so touching.

Parents should know that this movie includes two suicides, some violence, strong language, sexual references and a situation, and tense confrontations.

Family discussion: Why did Victoria’s mother want Tony to have Adrian’s journal?  Why was Tony wrong about Victoria’s brother?  Why did he forget about the letter?

If you like this, try: “The Remains of the Day”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Drama Movies -- format

Trailer: The Sense of an Ending

Posted on December 15, 2016 at 11:16 am

Julian Barnes’ novel The Sense of an Ending, won Britain’s most prestigious literary award, the Man Booker Prize, in 2012. It is the story of memory, loss, and regret, as a retired man is confronted with his past.

The film, starring James Broadbent, “Downton Abbey’s” Michelle Dockery, and Emily Mortimer, will be in theaters next year.

Related Tags:

 

Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Non-Stop

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

non-stopI’ve got nothing against action movies that are dumb fun (see last week’s review of 3 Days to Kill). My bar is pretty low. I don’t ask them to make sense. But “Non-Stop” sinks to a level of ridiculousness that harshes the buzz from even a top-notch cast and engaging set-up. I never thought I’d say this, but if Liam Neeson wants to appear in an yearly middle-aged action movie to combat the doldrums of winter, maybe he should consider “Taken 3.”  Or “Snakes on a Plane 2.”

Neeson plays Bill Marks, an ex-cop-turned air marshall with issues.  We meet him in the airport parking lot, taking a drink, arguing with his boss, and looking seedy and shaky.  Outside the airport taking a last smoke, he is distracted, not hearing a request for a light, and inside the airport he is curt with other travelers.  Once on board the plane to London, he admits to his seatmate, Jen (Julianne Moore), that he is very tense during take-off, but fine once the plane is in the air. Once they air airborne, he goes into the lavatory and puts duct tape on the smoke detector so he can have another cigarette.

Back in his seat, he receives a text on the secure federal network.  It says that if $150 million is not transferred to a bank account, every twenty minutes someone on the plane will die.  The sender seems to know all about him.  Bill has to figure out if the threat is real and who it is coming from.

Thankfully, the movie avoids the obvious “if you don’t know why that well-known actor is in this movie, he’s the bad guy” syndrome.  There’s a lot of bench strength in the “that guy looks familiar” non-star supporting cast, with outstanding character performers and up-and-coming actors like Scoot McNairy (“12 Years a Slave,” “Argo”), Corey Stoll (“Midnight in Paris,” “House of Cards”), Nate Parker (“Arbitrage”), Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”), Luptia Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”), Linus Roache (“Law and Order: SVU”), and Omar Metwally (“Harry’s Law”).  Every one of them takes the unforgiving material of the storyline further than it could possibly be expected to go, most of them giving us reasons to doubt/believe/doubt/believe whatever they are saying so nicely that they almost make it possible for us to ignore the increasingly dumber twists of what I will loosely refer to as the plot.  They make the shifting alliances hold our interest even as the storyline veers out of control.  The twists and turns of the who-dun-it and what-did-he-or-she-do-and-how are not as dumb as the decision to have Marks, for example, stop in the middle of a dire, every-second-counts moment to tell everyone on the plan a sad story about why he is so tortured.  And then there’s the moment when the cabin loses air pressure just in time to float a gun into Marks’ hand.

An airplane movie should take advantage of its locked-room setting and inherent danger.  But this one seems to miss the point.  Constricted space and the limits on getting dangerous materials through the TSA checkpoint should make the fight scenes more interesting, but they are unimaginatively staged by director Jaume Collet-Serra.  Marks’ instability is another limitation should also add an additional layer of uncertainty, but it is handled so inconsistently that it breaks the tension.  Finally, so much is piled into the last fifteen minutes that it feels like an unsuccessful attempt to get us to forget how little sense it makes.  We don’t ask for much from movies like this but the minimum is that you should get all the way to the car before you start saying, “Wait a minute….”  This one depends on such a pile-up of preposterousness that even these actors can’t land it safely.

Parents should know that this movie’s themes concern terrorism and hijacking, fights, guns, bomb, intense peril. Some characters are injured and killed, and the movie includes a sexual situation, brief strong language including gay slur, drugs, and alcohol abuse.

Family discussion: What was the villain’s real motive? If you suspected the wrong person, how did the movie mislead you?

If you like this, try: “Air Force One” and “Red Eye”

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Drama Thriller
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik