"Agnostic Nihilism Mixed with Family Values"
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is a British movie about an older divorced man who questions his choices 40 years ago when his first girlfriend’s dead mother bequeaths to him the diary of his best friend, who committed suicide after the friend stole the girlfriend. The characters and their stories in THE SENSE OF AN ENDING are well drawn, which makes for a captivating, intriguing drama, but MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution because of a strong humanist worldview with a nihilistic, agnostic ending, three strong obscenities and profanities, and two briefly depicted lewd moments, which are mitigated by some uplifting pro-family, redemptive elements.
Based on a novel by Julian Barnes, the movie stars Jim Broadbent as Tony Webster, the divorced owner of a small camera shop. Tony is still friendly with his ex-wife, Margaret. They have an unmarried daughter, Susie, who’s having her first baby.
One day, Tony receives a letter from an attorney, who tells him that his first girlfriend, Veronica’s, mother has just died and left him a diary in her will. The diary is from Adrian, who became Tony’s best friend in British boarding school in the late 1960s, the year before they went off to separate universities.
However, Veronica, who’s executor of her mother’s will, refuses to let Tony have the diary. So, he tries to set up a meeting with her to demand she give him Adrian’s diary. When they finally meet, her reasons are unclear. Tony decides to stalk Veronica and to find out what happened to her after they split apart 40 years ago.
As this story plays out, Tony begins to tell his ex-wife how he met Adrian, then Veronica and Veronica’s mother. Eventually, the movie reveals some uncomfortable truths and tragic past events that occurred in these people’s lives. Also, Tony eventually is confronted by the terrible consequences of few poor decisions he and Adrian made back then.
However, will he ever get to the bottom of Veronica’s role in the past? Will he be able to get the present-day Veronica to open up about her life after they parted ways?
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is a story about memory, regret, guilt, and the clash of personalities, even among friends and family. It deliberately leaves some things vague and ambiguous, because the protagonist’s memory of past events is a bit vague and ambiguous. In fact, when Tony first meets Adrian in school, Adrian tells their history teacher that he doesn’t think it’s possible to really know anything about history, especially why things happened. Adrian argues that memories are faulty, and people’s reasons are both internal and conflicted. Adrian even applies this nihilistic, agnostic theory of history to people’s memories of past personal experiences and attitudes.
Thus, at the end of THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, although some secrets from Tony, Adrian, Veronica, and Veronica’s mother’s pasts are revealed to Tony’s ex-wife and/or to the viewer, Tony discovers there are some things he’ll just never know. Regarding this, it’s interesting to note that the present-day Veronica never reveals anything to Tony about her past or present, including her reasons for not giving Adrian’s diary to Tony. Of course, viewers who see this movie can speculate about this, and some speculations may make more sense than others. However, the movie never reveals the whole story to the viewer.
As a result, the ending to THE SENSE OF AN ENDING seems to accept Adrian’s agnostic, nihilistic view of history and personal lives. Tony also seems to accept this view at the end. However, the good news is that this leads Tony to focus on his own family, especially his daughter and her new baby. He even tells his ex-wife that, even though they grew apart and will never remarry, he still loves her and their daughter and has concluded that they are the two most important people in his life, with the addition, of course, of his new grandchild. In the end, apparently, Tony decides to let go of the past, including any feelings of nostalgia, regret or guilt. Thus, the move’s ending leaves Tony living in the present and focusing on the ones he loves most.
Of course, a nihilistic, agnostic view of history is logically self-refuting because, at the same time it denies historical events have a meaning to them, it says that the meaning of an historical event is that it’s always undetermined or meaningless. Also, one always can ask the agnostic who says, “We can never know,” “How do we know that we can never know?” After all, if we can know that we can never know, perhaps there are ways to pin down our knowledge of history and come to some logical, empirical conclusions that the agnostic is unconsciously or even deliberately trying to ignore or avoid.
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING tells a compelling, intriguing story with well-drawn characters and excellent acting. As Tony, the reliable British actor, Jim Broadbent, holds the movie together, though his Tony isn’t always a likeable fellow.
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING also has some foul language, including one “f” word and a couple strong profanities. There’s also a scene where a young Tony and young Veronica meet for a sexual liaison. The scene leads to an argument and seems to be a catalyst for their breakup.
MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for THE SENSE OF AN ENDING.
(HH, B, C, Ho, LL, V, SS, N, A, D, M) Strong humanist worldview leads to a nihilistic, agnostic ending with a message that it’s impossible to really know what happened, whether it’s a piece of historical knowledge or a piece of knowledge about a person’s own individual history, but mitigated by some positive pro-family, redemptive elements where the protagonist decides to let go of his past and focus on his love for his daughter, for his new grandchild and even for his ex-wife even though they will never remarry, plus protagonist’s daughter in a birthing class points out that two women in the class are a lesbian couple; six obscenities (including one “f” word), two strong profanities using the name of Jesus and four light exclamatory profanities; brief violence includes references to a young man’s suicide, with an image of him sitting in a tub of water with two razor blades sitting on the edge and an image of his dead body in the water with some blood; briefly depicted fornication in one scene, a couple brief references to a lesbian couple in a birthing babies class, a hint of a past unwanted pregnancy, another character is having a baby out of wedlock, a shot of a young man apparently abusing himself, and a married woman seems to have an attraction for younger men, and she kind of flirts with her daughter’s new boyfriend in one scene where they’re alone; upper male nudity of suicide man in tub of water, and a woman shown wearing a bra; some alcohol use, including during flashbacks of a 1960s party with young adults; brief smoking but no drugs; and, man writes a revenge letter out of hatred.
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is a British drama based on an acclaimed novel. It stars Jim Broadbent as Tony, the divorced owner of a small camera shop. He and his ex-wife have an unmarried daughter having her first baby. Tony receives a letter from an attorney, which says his first girlfriend Veronica’s mother died and left him a diary. The diary is by Adrian, Tony’s best friend in British boarding school in the late 1960s, the year before they went off to separate universities. However, Veronica, who’s executor of her mother’s will, refuses relinquish the diary. So, Tony tries to cajole her into surrendering it while flashbacks reveal what happened 40 years ago.
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING tells a compelling, intriguing story with well-drawn characters and excellent acting. It has some uplifting pro-family, redemptive elements. However, it has a strong humanist worldview overall, including a nihilistic, agnostic ending, which says we can never know anything definitively. There are also three strong obscenities and profanities, and two briefly depicted lewd moments. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for THE SENSE OF AN ENDING.