Delicate, finely tuned: Review of The Sense of an Ending by Rashid Irani
Over the years, barely a handful of Indian filmmakers have had successful international careers, most notably Shekhar Kapur and Mira Nair. Based on The Sense of An Ending, Ritesh Batra is set to join their ranks.
This is his second feature, after the Mumbai-based and highly acclaimed The Lunchbox, and Batra brings the same keen sensibility to this adaptation of Julian Barnes’s Man Booker Prize-winning novella of the same name.
It helps that he’s working with an A-list cast of British actors that include Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling, as he explores the inconsistency of memory and the difficulty of coming to terms with past actions, especially those of a cruel, improvident bent.
The script by playwright Nick Payne distills the complex emotional core of the source material as it focuses on a surly septuagenarian (Broadbent, in a career-capping performance) who runs a small camera store specialising in vintage Leica models.
The old man’s life is upended after he receives a letter from a law firm. The missive triggers recollections of his long-lost love (Freya Mavor as the teenager, and Rampling in present-day London) and their lives as undergraduates nearly half a century ago.
Crucial events are expressed with the smallest gestures as the guilt-ridden divorcee confides long-buried secrets to his ex-wife (Harriet Walter, outstanding) and their pregnant daughter (Michelle Dockery).
The film is crammed with telling details, whether in the way a wristwatch is worn or a teacher’s habit of lobbing a cricket ball to the student required to respond to his query.
On the downside, the constant cutting back and forth in time becomes tiresome after a point. Also, a last-act revelation involving a former classmate (Joe Alwyn) leads to a pat denouement.
Still, The Sense of an Ending manages to engage the interest of the viewer even in a time when mutants, monsters and CGI razzmatazz dominate the multiplexes.