I saw the movie The Sense of an Ending this afternoon. It’s drawn from a book by Julian Barnes, which I became interested in reading after seeing the movie. But after reading a review of the book, my interest is even more piqued because the details in the book review are so different from comparable details in the movie.
The movie (and apparently the book) centers on Tony Webster, a man in his 60s, suddenly brought back to his youth by receiving a letter notifying him that he’s been left a legacy by an old girlfriend’s mother. (The contents of the legacy is one of the details that differs, so I must read the book to see whether the book review left out the movie detail, or the movie detail is wholly made up by the screenwriter.)
Switching back and forth from the present to memory, the film shows Tony as a young man in which he remembers pivotal relationships, with that girlfriend, and a new boy in school, then relating his memories to his divorced wife, stories he’d never told her before, while in the present their daughter is about to have a baby, on her own, with her parents as birth coaches. But perhaps he is an unreliable narrator, as we see him think he’s realized what really happened 40 years earlier, and then learn that he’s quite wrong
The movie is quite well done, captivating, and in its quiet way suspenseful. But because the focus is so much on Tony, as though the movie has a first-person narrator, we see the women, both the old girlfriend and the divorced wife, only as Tony sees them. Movies give you the illusion that you are an omniscient viewer, so the lack of detail for the women – why they liked or loved Tony within the context of their own lives – is for me quite frustrating. I wonder whether the book will reinforce that first-person viewpoint, or give the women somewhat more depth. (And Jack would have loved this movie. Domestic dramas were his favorite.)