Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Painful Pursuit of Secrets and a Lost Love

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Painful Pursuit of Secrets and a Lost Love

Article excerpt

Having assigned them to read up on Henry VIII, the professor asks which of his students might like to offer a characterization of that monarch's reign. When nobody volunteers, he picks a victim. There's a long, painful pause before the boy replies:

"There was unrest, sir."

After the snickering dies down, he is asked to elaborate. Another long pause:

"I'd say there was great unrest, sir."

More snickering - until the new boy, Adrian, dazzles the others with some much deeper thoughts.

Most dazzled is Tony, our narrator: "We imagined ourselves as being in a holding tank, waiting to be released into our lives," he reflects half a century later. "How were we to know that our lives had already begun, and that our release would only be into a larger holding tank and then, in time, a larger one ...."

Three names should suffice to tell you that "The Sense of an Ending" is a tale worth telling and seeing: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling and Julian Barnes.

Mr. Broadbent plays Tony, long retired (from what we never quite know) and long divorced but newly haunted by the memory of Veronica (Ms. Rampling), his first great love. A lawyer has just informed him that he has inherited a diary from her late mother. It presumably contains the answer to a nagging, deeply upsetting mystery.

Mr. Barnes is the author of one of the 10 best books of the 20th century, "A History of the World in 10 Chapters." (Never heard of it? Run right out and get it! Among other monumental insights, it contains one of very few extant firsthand accounts of a passenger on Noah's Ark.)

"The Sense of an Ending," by contrast, is considerably less monumental - a slim 163-page novel with a sense of suicide and of a painful paternity issue, superseded by two even more painful maternity issues. What exactly is in that diary - an ending?

This is film gris rather than noir. Long-in-the-tooth Tony is no natural Sam Spade. He does all the requisite detective stuff - ruminating, interviewing, following - but does it all rather badly, with brilliant deductions that may not be so brilliant as he thinks.

Director Ritesh Batra previously made "The Lunchbox" (2013), a wonderfully bittersweet dramedy set in Mumbai. …

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