While most weepy dramas go all-out with overtly heavy-handed themes and powerhouse performances, the more impactful are often the quieter films. Indie filmmaker Elfar Adalsteins makes his directorial debut with this poignant and unassuming drama that may not offer much by way of originality but makes up for it thanks to pitch-perfect performances and beautiful locations.
After being widowed, the meek and submissive Frank (John Hawkes) embarks on a journey to Ireland to honour his wife’s last wish of spreading her ashes in a remote lake there, while fulfilling his promise of taking his estranged convict son Sean (Logan Lerman) along for the trip. What follows is a pretty standard road movie, following the dysfunctional father and son as they slowly learn to understand each other between the surfacing of old flames, unresolved issues, a disconcerting Irish wake and the picking up of a mysterious and beautiful hitchhiker (Sarah Bolger). As old scars are opened and repressed trauma is unearthed, the film often touches upon some pretty difficult themes – and it handles them with a gentle and caring directorial hand from Adalsteins.
While most of the narrative beats here are predictable and often frustrating in their distraction from the film’s emotional character development – a subplot involving the duo’s car being stolen is particularly tedious and ill-fitting, especially when the pair trespass at a scrapyard in their search for the vehicle – the film’s overall heart is one that is tender and full of character. Gorgeous visuals of the breathtaking Irish scenery give the film a raw, natural beauty, while the understated performance of John Hawkes ranks among his best to date. Lerman is given more of a ‘showy’ role as the volatile Sean, but it is Hawkes who quietly steals the show.
End of Sentence doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table, but succeeds admirably in the telling of its poignant story thanks to sublime performances and beautiful visuals. This is a powerful and poignant film that, although suffocated in the shadow of the more prestige awards season films like Nomadland and The Father, could stand confidently side by side with them. Complex and richly layered, End of Sentence is a beautiful and touching snapshot of the bond between a father and son in the aftermath of tragedy.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents End of Sentence on digital download now