As we age, our minds become selective in choosing which memories to remember and which ones to forget. The human tendency to edit out things in our past that we’d rather erase from our personal history is the core theme in “The Sense of an Ending,” the film adaptation of the novel by Julian Barnes . Director Ritesh Batra (who made “The Lunchbox,” clocking in at #3 on my list of the Top 10 Best Movies of 2014) has created a thoughtful contemplation on the passage of time and youthful regret.
The film is anchored by a strong performance from Jim Broadbent as Tony and the perfect pairing with Harriet Walter as his ex-wife, Margaret. Their relationship feels so natural onscreen that you’ll swear they were once married in real life. (How lovely it is to see Broadbent step into a leading role, and one that seems tailor-made for him).
The film jumps back in forth in time as Tony begins to recount his flawed recollections of his teenage self (played by Billy Howle) and his first love Veronica (played as a young woman by Freya Mavor and in present day by Charlotte Rampling). Soon we realize that Tony is an unreliable narrator, as the truth about his deeply buried secrets slowly come to light.
This is a beautifully nuanced story that’s contemplative but never boring, yet the final reveal of the big mystery is disappointing because there’s not much of one. The slightly ambiguous story can be like a frustrating puzzle at times, with a gradual unveiling of an open-to-interpretation ending that, well, doesn’t really give you a sense of one.