The Sense Of An Ending

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)
The Sense Of An Ending

Jim Broadbent plays an elderly man forced to reassess his own past in this wise British drama

Julian Barnes’s 2011 Booker Prize winner is a tricky book to bring to screen. But this thoughtful adaptation by Indian director Ritesh Batra (‘The Lunchbox’) and British playwright Nick Payne (‘Constellations’) does a compelling job of bringing the novel’s first-person, interior musings to life. Its fragmented story moves fluidly between the present and the 1960s as slightly curmudgeonly, middle-class Londoner Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent, and Billy Howle as his younger self) is forced to reflect on his youth when a letter arrives from the executors of an old acquaintance’s will.

Until this point, Tony had carried in his mind one version of his student romance with Veronica (Freya Mavor): where it went wrong, and how it might have influenced the suicide of an old school friend, Adrian (Joe Alwyn). However, a drip feed of new information over the course of the film raises intriguing questions about how and why we write our own history and just how flawed we are as our own personal chroniclers.

‘The Sense of an Ending’ is comparable to 2015’s ’45 Years’ in that this is also a film about reconsidering everything one thought to be true, and only being able to do so when a certain amount of experience has passed. Both films feature Charlotte Rampling: here, Rampling plays the grown-up Veronica and offers a mid-film dose of cold, hard reality. As films they’re similarly open-ended too, although this seeks a lot more optimism and resolution at its close than either ‘45 Years’ or Barnes’s novel ever did, which is a slight cop-out.

Despite the warmer glow of some of its extended flashbacks, it’s a chilly film, not entirely open-armed or even welcoming at times. But along the way there are several powerful moments and excellent performances, not only from Broadbent but also from Rampling and a superb Harriet Walter as Tony’s ex-wife. This is a mature film in that it asks us to bring a lot of ourselves to it, preferring observation and introspection to melodrama or any big obvious conclusions.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

108 mins

Cast and crew

Ritesh Batra
Jim Broadbent
Charlotte Rampling
Harriet Walter

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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As well as watching the film I had also previously read the book, and have to say the book is better. There are some great performances, as you would expect, but at points I was confused as to what was happening. I far more enjoyed the relationship between husband and wife team played by Broadbent and Walters than I did between Broadbent and Rampling. Charlotte Rampling never gave me the impression that her character was truely hurt and her life had changed because of the thoughtless and senseless actions of the young Tony Webster. Broadbent however showed a character with a thorough lack of awareness of anyone's feelings other than his characters perfectly. The script was excellent, in the very safe hands of Nick Payne ('Constellations'), and there were some really touching moments, but the reveal felt, for me, a bit of a damp squib and really a bit lacklustre all round 


Great performances (as you would expect from Jim Broadbent/ Harriet Walters & Charlotte Rampling). A neat & pleasing film, but it just seems just a little too smug, a little too slow, & a little too flat. 


A thoughtful, if not wholly successful musing on the nature of memory. The story is convoluted and overly complicated -either as a reflection of the impact time has on recollections or the product of the difficulties of translating Julian Barnes text to the big screen. The cast are very watchable, the sequences both now and then are well stylised and shot. If only the slow and rampling build up actually when somewhere. 


This is definitely a movie I'd watch again if it happened to be on the telly, but on the big screen it just didn't grip me.

Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling are brilliant in everything they're in and this movie is no exception. If it wasn't for their strong, convincing performances I would've lost interest half-way through.

The hunt for a diary that's been left to Tony (Broadbent) in his ex's will leads to buried memories resurfacing and interesting revelations.

I found the story line a bit confusing (it's got one of those endings that can be interpreted in different ways which I find frustrating) and the movie is consistently slow-paced, so even when something does happen it doesn't stand out.