First Hit: Somewhat slow, subtle, and insightful film about someone coming to grips with things as they are and not what he thought they were.
I didn’t mind that this British film plodded along because its plodding was even and unfolded the character and the past of Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) in a thoughtful and realistic way.
Tony is a quiet grumpy (“curmudgeon” according to his daughter) retired old man. His best friend is his divorced wife Margaret (Harriet Walter). He’s a retired professor, but owns and works at a very small antique camera business. He receives a registered letter one day that tells him that his first college girlfriend Veronica’s (Freya Mavor as young Veronica and Charlotte Rampling as the older Veronica) mother, Sarah (Emily Mortimer), left him a diary by his old college friend Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn).
Curious, he goes to the solicitor’s (lawyer) office to collect the diary, however he’s told that Veronica still has it and isn’t giving it up to Tony. This prompts him to discuss his university story to his former wife, who sees through the surface representation and tells him, come back and tell me the real and in-depth story.
The film is about this slow unfolding of his reconciliation of his actions as a student. To assist the story, his daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) is pregnant and having a baby, which is used to enhance Tony’s inability to connect at an emotional empathetic level to the possibilities of what happened a long time ago.
To tell the story the film goes back and forth in time often to explore his relationship with Veronica, her mom, Adrian, and his other close friends. It takes a bit of getting use to because the segues between the two time periods are not always matched.
Broadbent was perfect for this role. He’s got the look and the acting ability to make me believe he was learning about his whole life through the story of the film. Being an occasional curmudgeon myself, I got why he asked the questions he did and the way he isolated himself. Walter was wonderful as his understanding and caring ex-wife. Mavor was interesting as young Veronica but it was Rampling as the older Veronica who really put the right flavor on his growing up, so-of-speak. Mortimer was really strong in her brief but impactful role. Alwyn was OK as Tony’s friend. Dockery was wonderful as Tony’s daughter. I liked their interaction and was touched by his being with her during the birth of her baby. Nick Payne did a wonderful job of creating a script that unfolded slowly. Ritesh Batra did a good job of letting the dialog unfold the scenes.
Overall: This was enjoyable to me, but I can see why it may not be enjoyable to others.