Even though he’s 37, director Ritesh Batra didn’t have difficulties dealing with the main themes of his new movie “The Sense of an Ending,” based on English writer Julian Barnes’ award-winning novel about an older man reflecting on his life’s choices.
“I lived with my grandfather for the first 18 years of my life and the last 18 of his,” says the Indian filmmaker, recently in town to promote his second feature, which opens this week. (He broke out in 2013 with “The Lunchbox” and his next film is “Our Souls at Night” with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, whose last movie together, “The Electric Horseman,” was made before Batra was born.)
“I read the book in 2011 and fell in love with it,” says Batra, who came to “The Sense of an Ending” after Nick Payne already had begun the first draft of a screen adaptation of the short but provocative novel, which is mostly the protagonist’s interior monologue and, he says, has “so much in between the lines.”
Together they made tweaks in the flashback-filled story – which Batra says “is also about how difficult ordinary human life is” — including giving the main character Tony Webster (the great Jim Broadbent) a pregnant daughter (Michelle Dockery) and beefing up the role of his ex-wife (Harriet Walter).
One of the film’s most pivotal scenes has the couple talking in the kitchen, and Batra says he let the crew wait while he, Jim and Harriet spent two hours “talking through it” before shooting.
The cast is rounded out by Charlotte Rampling as the older version of Tony’s first love Veronica, a woman whose distance brings out how Tony had changed very little over decades.
Batra, who lives in New York and had not spent time in England before the month he filmed the movie there, said it took a while to get used to British reserve, how the English don’t address others directly, or their own emotions.
A filmmaker who admires the work of Louis Malle, Ingmar Bergman, French new wave directors and Satyajit Ray, Batra admittedly has felt anxiety over the many factors involved in the creative process of making a movie, but he says “it’s worth it if I can give people something to relate to.”
IF YOU GO
The Sense of an Ending
Starring Jim Broadbent, Michelle Dockery, Harriet Walter, Charlotte Rampling
Written by Nick Payne
Directed by Ritesh Batra
Running time 1 hour, 48 minutes