A smart piece of trans­la­tion

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE SENSE OF AN END­ING Di­rected by Ritesh Ba­tra. Star­ring Jim Broad­bent, Char­lotte Ram­pling, Har­riet Wal­ter, Michelle Dock­ery, Matthew Goode, Emily Mor­timer, James Wilby. 15A cert, gen re­lease, 108 min Ritesh Ba­tra, direc­tor of the charm­ing but sen­ti­men­tal The Lunch­box, does not seem like an ob­vi­ous choice to tackle Ju­lian Barnes’s cool, dryly comic The Sense of an End­ing (one of the most loaded ti­tles in re­cent fic­tion). In­deed, that slim Booker win­ner does not ex­actly scream out for any sort of adap­ta­tion. Un­re­li­able nar­ra­tors are fear­fully dif­fi­cult to ac­com­mo­date on screen.

Nick Payne’s fine screen­play – though largely faith­ful – has tweaked the story in such a way as to al­lay both reser­va­tions. The plot is less am­bigu­ous. The pro­tag­o­nist is less rep­re­hen­si­ble at the begin­ning and comes closer to re­demp­tion at the close. The changes suit the de­mands of main­stream cinema and the warm aes­thetic Ba­tra ex­hib­ited in his first film. This is a smart piece of trans­la­tion.

Jim Broad­bent is grumpy and ex­as­per­ated as ag­ing Le­ica spe­cial­ist Tony Web­ster (did Barnes con­sciously name him for a great, su­per char­ac­ter in The Fall and Rise of Reg­gie Per­rin?). Hav­ing lived a mod­estly sat­is­fac­tory life, he now en­joys tol­er­a­tion by ex-wife Mar­garet (Har­riet Wal­ter) and af­fec­tion from preg­nant daugh­ter Susie (Michelle Dock­ery).

Echoes of the past shake his com­pla­cency when a note ar­rives from an un­known so­lic­i­tor. It seems that the mother of a former girl­friend – not seen since his univer­sity years – has left him a sec­tion of a late friend’s diary. The sub­se­quent twists re­mind one quite how much plot Barnes man­aged to pack into a novella.

Though the picture makes some ef­fort to dis­man­tle ro­man­tic no­tions of the swing­ing six­ties, the flash­backs are still suf­fi­ciently mot­tled to in­duce long­ing sighs. All the men are hand­some. All the women are lovely. Max Richter’s su­perb score does lit­tle to dis­pel the nostal­gia for an era most view­ers won’t re­mem­ber.

Back in the present, Broad­bent’s per­for­mance has real trac­tion. There’s a mis­an­thropy here that could scare off any sen­si­ble woman. But the ac­tor’s knob­bly charm helps ex­plain why Mar­garet con­tin­ues to en­dure his moan­ing. It’s hard to imag­ine any­one other than Wal­ter mak­ing so much of a part thrat in­volves just lis­ten­ing and sigh­ing.

Old days: Char­lotte Ram­pling and Jim Broad­bent

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