[Screen It]


(2017) (Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling) (PG-13)

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Drama: A retired man tries to find resolution for his spiteful behavior decades earlier toward his then girlfriend and best friend.
Tony Webster (JIM BROADBENT) is a divorced retiree who runs a small, vintage camera shop not far from his London townhouse. He's still friends with his ex-wife, Margaret (HARRIET WALTER), and both are looking forward to the birth of their grandchild courtesy of their single mother-to-be daughter, Susie (MICHELLE DOCKERY).

Tony's life is one of routine, but that's shaken a bit when he receives a legal notice about the estate settlement of Sarah Ford (EMILY MORTIMER), the late mother of Tony's college girlfriend, Veronica (FREYA MAVOR). In the accompanying letter, there's also mention of his best friend in school, Adrian Finn (JOE ALWYN), and that his diary was intended for Tony, but it's missing from the package he's received.

As he hopes to get his hands on that, he recounts those times long ago when he was a college student (BILLY HOWLE) and close pal to Adrian, and how those relationships changed over time, including a surprise revelation that led to him firing off a nasty and vindictive letter to those he believed wronged him.

Now, decades later, he feels guilty about having done so and thus tries to meet Veronica (CHARLOTTE RAMPLING) to make amends, something she initially wants no part of. As he perseveres, he comes to learn the truth about what really happened all of those years ago and the lingering after effects that are still present today.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
In today's tech-heavy world of text messages, Tweets, Facebook comments and so on, it's more common than not to see people being mean toward others, especially since so many haters can hide behind shields of anonymity.

And it's not just limited to those who've been wronged in some way and thus want to lash out. Instead, civility simply seems to be eroding in our society, especially when such belittlement, bullying and so on can be instantaneous. I wonder, though, how many -- if any -- of people making such mean and hurtful comments regret doing so afterward (particularly if they're not otherwise publically shamed as a result).

I don't recall when I first heard it or who spoke the following words of wisdom to me, but I recall being told on more than one occasion as a child in the 1960s and '70s -- "Don't say something you'll regret." Of course, and despite such advice, most all of us have been guilty of ignoring that wisdom, but at least in the old days the path to doing so took time and effort, be that seeking out the person face to face, calling them, or writing and mailing a letter.

The latter was always a remote time bomb of sorts, with the sender never knowing when the mailing was received and sometimes having no idea how it ultimately influenced the recipient. That's the gist of the story and underlying themes of "The Sense of An Ending," a solid little flick about how past, impulsive behavior can still haunt people and have repercussions decades later.

It's based on Julian Barnes' 2011 book of the same name (which I have not read) and revolves around Tony Webster (a terrific Jim Broadbent), a divorced retiree whose long-ago past comes back into the light when he receives an estate settlement notice from a woman he hasn't seen in decades. And that's not a past romantic partner, mind you, but rather such a person's mother who's had a post-mortem letter sent to him, along with his former, college-era best friend's diary.

The only issue is the latter is missing from his package and thus, with his interest piqued, he begins a search for that and thus revisits his past, as told at times to his ex-wife (Harriet Walter) with whom he remains friends. We then see a series of flashbacks to the college days of young Tony (Billy Howle) who's best friends with Adrian (Joe Alwyn) and begins dating Veronica (Freya Mavor). But a bit of romantic treachery ruins all of that and thus when Tony learns of being wronged, he fires off a nasty letter and never hears from either again.

Back in the present, and when not taking his expectant single daughter (Michelle Dockery) to birthing classes, he tries to find his former flame (who's now grown up into Charlotte Rampling), make amends and seek resolution to his guilt that's stayed with him, to one degree or another, all of these years. All of which leads to new revelations that end up surprising him and thus the viewer as well.

The storyline and themes are nothing new here -- they've been used in countless movies and novels over the years -- but all involved make that feel fresh enough that it's unlikely one will be bored by what transpires. And much of that stems from the solid to strong performances, especially from Broadbent who's terrific in the lead role.

I doubt any of today's angry text and social media messengers will see this offering and rethink their behavior. But at some point, they might just fire off a message that will come back to haunt them, perhaps even decades later as occurs here. "The Sense of An Ending" not only depicts the pitfalls of just that, but is also an engaging and well-made way of imparting such wisdom. It rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed February 22, 2017 / Posted March 17, 2017

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