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‘The Sense of an Ending’ film review: Sentimentality mars an otherwise well-intentioned drama

Great period detail and stellar acting wrestle with an unwieldy screenplay in Ritesh Batra’s second feature.

“Everyone is the unreliable narrator of their own lives.” That’s the recurring theme in British author Julian Barnes’s 2011 Booker prize-winning novella The Sense of an Ending. Ritesh Batra’s adaptation, based on a screenplay by British playwright Nick Payne, unfolds like a mystery. There isn’t a crime scene to investigate, but rather the detritus of fading memories.

A death disturbs the restful calm of English septuagenarian Tony Webster’s comfortable life. As the result of a legacy bequeathed to Tony (Jim Broadbent) by Sarah Ford (Emily Mortimer), the mother of his old girlfriend Veronica (Charlotte Rampling), Tony is forced to revisit the memories buried deep within the recesses of his mind. While negotiating a tricky relationship with his heavily pregnant daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) and ex-wife Harriet (Margaret Walter), he must come to terms with a decision made by his younger self that defined him.

Like a mind drifting from one thought or incident to another based on a word, a smell or a solitary moment, the film flits between the past and the present. The flashbacks are snippets of Tony’s youth and like the audience, he too seems to be unable to make too much sense of them in the beginning. Confusion pervades most of the film, but that does not seem to be entirely intentional. A passing familiarity would be required with the source novel to make true sense of the many brief encounters.

Play
The Sense of an Ending.

The lovingly crafted 108-minute film plays careful attention to 1960 styles and recreates it with a soundtrack heaving with hits from that decade. It is in the quietly menacing moments between Rampling and Broadbent, both in top form, that the film comes alive. In their intense but brief interactions, the film moves from a well-intentioned prestige drama to a searching exploration of the uneasy relationship between memory and truth.

Batra’s debut The Lunchbox (2013) was shot through with a strong sense of humanism and the fundamental belief that people are mostly good. Here too, Tony becomes a crusty curmudgeon whose chief difficulty is the inability to communicate his feelings. The momentous revelation in the final act proves otherwise, but both Batra and Broadbent reach for the sentimental instead of a touch of the acerbic.

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Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs

HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.

The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.

Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold

Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.

HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.

HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program
HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program

“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.

Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.

HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort
HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort

Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.

More than digital learning

The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.

HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand
HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand

Programs offered today

HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.

To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.

Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.

For more information, please review the HBX website.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HBX and not by the Scroll editorial team.