Not Guilty: Our Review of ‘End of Sentence’

Not Guilty: Our Review of ‘End of Sentence’

Director Elfar Adalsteins’ drama film End of Sentence is not something we’ve never seen before. It’s about an estranged father/son duo (John Hawkes and Logan Lerman respectively). And they are tasked by their late wife/mother to spread her ashes in a rural Irish lake. In the meantime, they repair their relationship through many hardships. The specific details are their own, but the general plot is rather familiar (the 2017 Netflix film Kodachrome comes to mind). Having written that, it doesn’t mean that this film isn’t worth watching. It is. 

I am generally used to seeing Hawkes portraying an antagonist. He was wonderfully callous in 2017s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but he plays very much against type here: a milquetoast, reserved man who prefers to avoid confrontation. This is, quite simply, the best work I’ve seen from the actor. I empathized with his grieving the loss of his wife. I was frustrated by his nearly pathetic habit of dodging conflict. And the way he imbues his character with impotent rage at his late wife’s potential transgressions is truly impressive. 

Logan Lerman turns in a strong performance as Sean. He’s an intimidating car thief with extraordinary anger towards his father. But he isn’t actually all that bad of a person. I found a lot of similarities between Sean and Shia LaBeouf’s character in The Peanut Butter Falcon, both in characterization and in how Lerman inflected his voice. 

Rounding out the primary cast is Sarah Bolger as Jewel, a beautiful Irish drifter fleeing a bad domestic situation. She meets Sean in a pub when both characters are feeling particularly vulnerable and a kind of romance ensues. It’s far from the best on-screen relationship I’ve seen. But the two performers share a strong chemistry that had me invested in their affair. 

End of Sentence is beautifully shot by director of photography Karl Oskarsson, featuring gorgeous, symmetrical birds-eye-view frames of the lush green meadows of Ireland and Northern Ireland alike. 

The ending of the film is admittedly a little saccharin, and it doesn’t delve into unexpected territory. But the movie earns its slightly cheesy ending with strong character development. 

The only issues that I really took with End of Sentence were some pacing problems (particularly in the second act) despite the fact that the film is a scant 96 minutes, and while it is indeed touched upon, I would have liked it if the story had delved a little deeper into Sean’s animosity towards his father. 

Still, End of Sentence is a sweet, occasionally funny, and rather poignant story of a father and son coming to terms with long-festering grievances. While not wholly original, it treads the line of drama and schmaltz quite well. And it is, in my opinion, absolutely worth watching for the very strong performances alone.

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