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Film Review: “End of Sentence” Offers a Mostly Moving Journey of Reconciliation

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | May 29th, 2020

Film poster: “End of Sentence”

End of Sentence (Elfar Adalsteins, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.

Father and son reunite and reconcile over the course of a road trip through Ireland, the two joining forces to journey to the remote lake where the one’s wife and the other’s mother wished to have her ashes scattered. They are Frank and Sean Fogle, and when the movie begins the latter cannot stand the former. The why is not all that clear, though since Sean is in prison when first we meet him, perhaps something went wrong in the upbringing. Frank seems like such a nice guy, however, that it makes one wonder if Sean is just a bad seed or if deeper truths lie hidden below the surface.

Such is the premise of End of Sentence, a new film from director Elfar Adalsteins, making his feature debut, and this being a better-than-average sort of movie, those deeper truths are somewhat explained, but not entirely. The script, by Michael Armbruster (Beautiful Boy), holds back on just enough details of the backstory to allow the viewer to fill in the blanks, fostering gentle engagement with the protagonists’ troubled psyches. As Frank, John Hawkes does a 180-degree turn from some of his more violent turns in films like The Peanut Butter Falcon or Winter’s Bone (though he has certainly played his share of gentle men, as well), while Logan Lerman, as Sean, does the reverse, departing from his restrained performances in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fury and Indignation to incarnate a man always on the edge of explosion. They make a dynamic duo as they drive through some spectacular Irish scenery.

L-R: John Hawkes and Logan Lerman in END OF SENTENCE ©Gravitas Ventures

Though not without its scenes of overly scripted emotional catharsis, the film thrives on the quiet moments between the actors, their slowly thawing cold war revealing the mutually shared past that has shaped them each so differently. Incidental characters come and go, including one young woman, Jewel (Sarah Bolger, A Good Woman Is Hard to Find), whose mysterious motivations force father and son to reevaluate their relationship, but the dramatic force of the narrative lies in the interactions between Hawkes and Lerman. By the end of the movie, thanks to them, End of Sentence mostly delivers on the early promise of a moving story well told.

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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