Shortly before succumbing to cancer, Anna’s (Andrea Irvine) last wish is to have her husband and currently incarcerated son Sean (Logan Lerman) travel together to a remote lake in her native Ireland and spread her ashes in the water. Frank and Sean have been estranged for some time, and it’s clear that as soon as Sean is released from prison, he wants nothing to do with his father. After promising his son that he will never have to see him ever again if he comes on the trip, Frank convinces Sean to reluctantly hop on a plane, ready to hit the road through the Irish countryside to deliver Anna to her final resting place.
It’s not a wholly original story on the surface, but taking an American road trip and setting it in a foreign country adds a fresh element. Screenwriter Michael Armbruster keeps things interesting, especially when you’re certain that you’ve predicted which way the film will turn. There are plenty of surprises, sadness, and humor along the way. Like when the two meet some of Anna’s relatives at a wake in her homeland and it becomes clear she had plenty of secrets, even if they don’t matter much anymore. Or when a mystery pops up when Frank finds a photo of his wife hanging on the back of a motorcycle with her old flame. Or when a mysterious stranger named Jewel (Sarah Bolger) with a troubled past (and present) joins them on their journey. It’s the little twists (never gimmicky) that make the very intimate story hit home on a deeply emotional level.
Hawkes and Lerman deserve much credit for their authentic, raw performances. Frank is a layered, restrained, and weak man, while Sean is a callous jerk of a son who has zero use for his old man. It’s cathartic to ride along and watch as the truth about why their relationship is so damaged slowly bubbles to the surface. Their estranged father / son dynamic is genuine to the point it’s almost painful to watch them both struggle with past demons, and what feels like a lifetime of regret, as they traverse the difficult path that will hopefully lead to forgiveness and respect.
The film makes the most of its location without falling victim to the picture-perfect postcard views of Ireland, and the story tugs at the heartstrings yet never feels manipulative or hokey. It’s a real achievement with subject matter like this, and even the most stoic filmgoers would be hard-pressed not to be deeply touched by this story.
“End of Sentence” is one of the best films I’ve seen all year, and it’s a heartfelt indie that will leave its mark on all who watch it.