I am a big fan of British films so this one was right up my alley. Of course I haven’t read the book in which this is based but when has that ever stopped me …
Synopsis: When an elderly man is bequeathed a diary from a deceased friend, he is suddenly thrust back into his teenage memories of a love triangle involving his first crush and a school chum, one that would ultimately divide the three of them and shape the rest of his adult life. (Rovi)
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, and Harriet Walter
Writer: Nick Payne
Director: Ritesh Batra
Running Time: 108mins
As long as there have been films, there have been films dealing with the past so this one wasn’t new in that regard. What sets this apart is its storytelling. The film is about a man named Tony Webster (Broadbent) who, after learning about his ex-girlfriend Veronica’s mother Sarah’s (Emily Mortimer) death, begins to look back to his past and regrets some of the decisions he made that led to where he was now.
The film alternates between the past and the present where we see a younger Webster (Billy Howle) meet a younger Veronica (Freya Mevor) through school and university fifty years earlier. They were close but they never seemed able to take their relationship to the next level which complicated things for the two of them. Things changed when another young man named Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn) came along and joined Webster’s inner circle of friends.
He and Webster were close and remained friends after University. Webster’s and Veronica’s relationship was further tested once Finn began to fall for her. Webster quickly resented their relationship and in a moment of anger, he sent them an angry letter leading to Finn committing suicide, or at least that’s what he thought.
In learning about Sarah’s death, he was also set to receive Finn’s diary that somehow landed in her possession. This became a source of frustration for him as a now older Veronica (Rampling) refused to give it to him for some unknown reason. As he struggled with getting the diary, he confided in his ex-wife Margaret (Walter) and told her stories of his past. They were still close as they both took care of their pregnant daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery).
She was surprised to hear them as he had never told her any of it before. As she’s hearing it for the first time, she couldn’t help but to think that she wasn’t getting the whole story but maybe Webster didn’t know the whole story either. It wasn’t until after he reunited with Veronica that he finally learned the truth about what really happened and what led to Finn’s suicide. He was suddenly afflicted with feelings of guilt and regret, looking back at what he did. Through this experience, Webster gained some much needed perspective about life.
The best part of the film was Broadbent’s nuanced performance as Webster. He made the old curmudgeon likable and very compelling to watch. He showed great range, being charming while capturing his wide range of emotions below the surface. It was easy to invest emotionally in his journey. He and Walter had chemistry as Susie’s parents as he did with Rampling in limited scenes. Howle and Mevor were good as younger versions of Tony and Veronica as was the rest of the supporting cast but this was Broadbent’s film. The ending didn’t really feel like an ending because it was more of a new beginning.
Overall, this was an excellent, character-driven, drama about the meaning of life and how it comes full circle, featuring a compelling story with a great performance by Jim Broadbent.
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