The Sense of an Ending
Memories may be unreliable in compelling, mature drama.
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The Sense of an Ending
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Sense of an Ending is a drama that plays with the idea of memory. A couple long broken up reunites, and it becomes clear that they remember their relationship very differently. Based on the award-winning novel by Julian Barnes, the story's mature themes and characters will probably appeal more to older teens and adults than younger viewers. That said, things don't get too racy; there's some fooling around and implied sex, but nothing truly graphic. You can also expect moderate drinking and smoking, and a little swearing (including one use of "f--k").
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What's the Story?
In THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, Tony (Jim Broadbent), a divorced semi-retiree, gets a letter out of the blue that reconnects him to his college girlfriend, Veronica (Charlotte Rampling). Tony is spurred to recall how their relationship went sour and how it affected his connection to his best friend at the time. In a series of flashbacks, we see the young couple in good times and in less-good times, as current-day Tony tries to understand why, decades later, Veronica still harbors anger toward him.
Is It Any Good?
Based on Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, this drama is a good movie -- but not great. The lyricism that marked the book doesn't quite translate to the screen. Its power is hindered by a lack of depth in sections that were more expertly excavated in the book, as well as by the script's inability to bring all the characters fully to life. It's only Tony who is truly nuanced. And though, as the protagonist, he's the one that viewers really has to know best, the rest of the cast -- including Veronica's mother, who plays an important role but is one-dimensional here (though not through any failure on the part of actress Emily Mortimer) -- is important, too. So is Veronica herself.
The movie is also bogged down by its structure. The story careens from present to past, from biased memory to a clear, comprehensive picture. As a result, the story's philosophical moorings -- which are the strength of the book -- get lost in the shuffle. Still, The Sense of an Ending is thought-provoking and worth seeing for Broadbent's empathetic portrayal of a man who can't quite be honest with himself about the events of his life and who he is -- until truth finally stares him in the face.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how The Sense of an Ending deals with relationships and sex. How does sex impact the way the characters feel about each other? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding these topics.
What role does memory play in this story? Why might two people's memories of the same event differ? How can you decide which version is the most accurate/"right"?
Why is Tony so surprised that people from his past may harbor old grudges? Does he demonstrate any sense of empathy that shows he understands why people may still have some anger toward him?
- In theaters: March 10, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: June 6, 2017
- Cast: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer
- Director: Ritesh Batra
- Studio: CBS Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, a violent image, sexuality and brief strong language
- Last updated: March 31, 2022
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