The Sense of an Ending | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Sense of an Ending

A well-produced and well-acted British drama about revisiting one’s past


Ritesh Batra directs this adaptation of the Julian Barnes novel in which Tony (Jim Broadbent) is enjoying a comfortable retirement. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, but perhaps he’s earned it. Then he receives notice that he has inherited a diary, from the estate of the mother of his college love. This prompts him to recount those long-ago days to his ex-wife (Harriet Walter), even as he deals with his impending grandfatherhood. Needless to say, it’s often dangerous to look back, particularly with additional sources of information, as Tony also re-establishes contact with his former girlfriend (Charlotte Rampling). It turns out that things weren’t as he assumed, and now Tony must confront how his role in the collective history of friends and lovers wasn’t as blameless as he long assumed.

Batra’s film shifts between the past and the present, as both Tony and viewers sort out what happened. Sense is a certain sort of familiar British drama, in which urbane self-absorbed older sorts ponder over earlier significant days at tony universities and weekends at country houses; the melodrama is low-key, and evasion is a natural component of any conversation. That said, this is a prime example of such works, well produced and finely acted.

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