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The Sense of an Ending DVD Review

The Sense of an Ending (2017) movie poster The Sense of an Ending

Theatrical Release: March 10, 2017 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ritesh Batra / Writers: Julian Barnes (novel), Nick Payne (adaptation & screenplay)

Cast: Jim Broadbent (Tony Webster), Charlotte Rampling (Veronica Ford), Harriet Walter (Margaret Webster), Michelle Dockery (Susie Webster), Matthew Goode (Mr. Hunt), Emily Mortimer (Sarah Ford), James Wilby (David Ford), Edward Holcroft (Jack Ford), Billy Howle (Young Tony Webster), Freya Mavor (Young Veronica), Joe Alwyn (Adrian Finn), Peter Wight (Colin Simpson), Hilton McRae (Alex Stuart), Jack Loxton (Young Colin Simpson), Timothy Innes (Young Alex Stuart), Andrew Buckley (Adrian Junior), Karina Fernandez (Eleanor Marriott), Nick Mohammed (Postman Danny)

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Adapting Julian Barnes' 2011 novel, The Sense of an Ending stars Jim Broadbent as Tony Webster, the divorced owner of a small London shop that sells old, working secondhand cameras.
Tony signs for a certified mail delivery that reopens a chapter in his life from long ago. It turns out the mother of his secondary school girlfriend has passed away and in her will left him an item that has not been included in the mailing. It is a diary that belonged to neither him nor the girlfriend.

Nonetheless, the unfulfilled will is cause for flashbacks, depicting Tony as a thoughtful, mild-mannered young man (Billy Howle) who is smitten with Veronica (Freya Mavor), but also her mother (Emily Mortimer). Tony shares his experience with his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter), who is surprised to only now be hearing about his first love for the first time.

Unpredictable and nonlinear, Sense immerses us in Tony's present-day existence while harking back to his seemingly unremarkable youth. It often is unclear where our focus is meant to be fixed. Director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) and screenwriter Nick Payne (making his feature debut) take their time to flesh out Tony's past and to give us any indication as to the old mystery that is being solved.

Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) gets a certified letter that takes him back in "The Sense of an Ending."

Eventually, we come to know it involves Veronica (capably played in the present day by Charlotte Rampling), who is withholding the diary that has been legally bequeathed to Tony, as he pursues her to the point of stalking. The other narrative thread involves Susie (Michelle Dockery), Tony and Margaret's 36-year-old daughter who is giving birth seemingly on her own.

Broadbent, so frequently resigned to humorous scene-stealing support, is a highly compelling leading man here.
His big blue eyes burst with the mix of emotions his character is dealing with, from nostalgia to regret. Whether raising his voice at noisy children or making a fool of himself around the two women of his family, Broadbent makes old-fashioned Tony the kind of upper sexagenarian you might aspire to one day be.

Sense recalls Rampling's Oscar-nominated 45 Years in a number of ways, but it chooses to show us the past instead of merely telling us about it and lingering on its effects. The flashbacks never have as much impact as the present-day material and the relationship between the two timelines sometimes seems tenuous or confusing. Still, this is ultimately a mature human drama and so few of those are made that it is easy to appreciate for its depictions and emotional complexities.

After making a little splash in theaters with a $1.27 million gross from a max venue count of 282, The Sense of an Ending doesn't even get a Blu-ray edition, settling for a digital copy-less DVD release from CBS and Lionsgate.

The Sense of an Ending DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video


The Sense of an Ending obviously lacks the sharpness and detail you get from Blu-ray, but by DVD standards, the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer seems pretty okay. It's a touch soft and dark, but not drastically different from theatrical exhibition. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't grab your attention, but gets the job done.

Ritesh Batra directs Jim Broadbent and Harriet Walter on the set of "The Sense of an Ending" as seen in making-of featurette "Power of Memory." Billy Howle and Freya Mavor play the young Tony and Veronica on The Sense of an Ending's DVD main menu.


Sense of an Ending is joined by two featurettes here.

"Doing Right by a Great Book" (6:24) focuses on the adaptation,
with comments from the author, director, cast, and crew.

"Power of Memory: Making The Sense of an Ending" (10:22) considers the cast and the story, with behind-the-scenes glimpses complementing more talking heads.

"Trailers" repeats the disc-opening previews for Patriots Day, Hell or High Water, Tommy's Honour, The Lovers, and Lady Macbeth. Sense of an Ending's own trailer is not included here.

The main menu plays clips over the poster-adapted, animated ethereal blue and purple clouds while an excerpt of piano score is looped.

The plain disc is held in an insert-less, eco-friendly keepcase that is topped by a standard slipcover. Both feature the same artwork making the movie look darker and more dramatic than it really is.

Fresh off her Academy Award nomination, Charlotte Rampling plays the present day Veronica Ford.


For most viewers, The Sense of an Ending will produce something in between love and hate. Thanks to a strong lead performance by Jim Broadbent, this dual-narrative character study compels even as it takes its time to lay out and unravel its far from breathtaking mystery. The lack of a Blu-ray edition disappoints, but this lightweight DVD still warrants a rental for those fond of the cast or intrigued by the story.

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Related Reviews:
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Jim Broadbent: Brooklyn The Great Train Robbery Enchanted April Life Is Sweet The Iron Lady
Charlotte Rampling: 45 Years The Verdict | Directed by Ritesh Batra: The Lunchbox
Elle An Education

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Reviewed June 2, 2017.

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