Having broken onto the scene with the irrepressibly charming drama The Lunchbox – which was BAFTA nominated for being so bloody lovely – director Ritesh Batra is now presenting his second feature film. While his preceding endeavour was all about living in the moment, The Sense of an Ending – adapted from Julian Barnes’ novel of the same – lingers on a protagonist who lives in the past. Nostalgia is a key theme within this delectable production, making for an endearingly poignant piece of cinema.
Jim Broadbent plays the aforementioned role of Tony Webster, who is surprised to learn he has a package left to him in the will of an ex-girlfriend’s mother. Now running a vintage camera shop, and somewhat distracted by his daughter Susie’s (Michelle Dockery) pregnancy, he becomes obsessed with obtaining this mystery item he feels is rightfully is. Having lunch with his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter), he recounts the history behind his relationship with the recently deceased, who he fell in love with while at University (where he is depicted by Billy Howle), despite going out with her daughter Veronica (Freya Mavor). Wanting to reconnect with Veronica, who is portrayed in the present by Charlotte Rampling, getting his hands on this package has greater implications, for he seeks to find some closure over what had been a tumultuous time in his formative years.
Though a complex narrative with a myriad of characters involved, both from Tony’s time at Uni, and from the life he’s since built for himself, such is seamless means of storytelling by Batra, as we move freely between flashbacks and the present day, it’s far easier to digest that it may sound. As a intimate character study of this one man, it helps when he’s been humanised as effectively as Tony has here, as we explore his flaws and imperfections, not afraid to portray him in a negative light. And yet we remain on his side throughout, which is a credit, primarily, to the talent of Broadbent, who brings such a light, engaging touch to the role, and his sheer affability as a performer allows for the viewer to emotionally invest in his cause, no matter how much of a grumpy bastard he can be at times.
Though wildly different to The Lunchbox in many ways, both films linger over the notion of indirect communication; people striving to contact each other, yet rather than in person it’s through packages. That’s the not the only similarity either, for this gentle drama carries an indelible charm, and while not quite as genial as what came before, there’s still plenty to be admired – it’s just a shame where his last thrived in its simplicity, this latest offering perhaps attempts to cover just a little too much ground.