End of Sentence 2019 ****

Sometimes it’s the tiniest detail that sparks a good film into life; as Frank Fogle (John Hawkes) enters an American prison alongside his terminally ill wife, she’s asked to remove her head-scarf, revealing her bald head and suggesting how short her remaining time on earth will be. A small moment, but one that elicits sympathy and interest; her death and funeral are not seen, but it’s obvious that Frank is left bereft by her passing. When their son, Sean (Logan Lerman) is finally allowed back from behind bars, Frank manages to persuade Sean to accompany him on a trip to rural Ireland, with the intention of spreading her ashes. But Sean would rather be in California, and the parental clash is sharpened when Sean picks up a girl in the form of Jewel (Sarah Bolger).
Audiences might feel that if they’ve seen one bitter-sweet drama about a father and son’s unlikely road trip to spread their mother’s ashes, they’ve seen them all. But End of Sentence comes up fresh as a daisy under the direction of Elfar Adalsteins, with Michael Armbruster’s script given space to sing. Hawkes has been a powerful force in films as diverse as Winter’s Bone and The Sessions, and manages to convincingly depict Frank as a man strong in conviction, but weak in action. Just as good is Logan Lerman; in his Percy Jackson series, Lerman seems to have been encouraged to play up the Jack Nicholson in his looks, but here he dispenses with the mannerisms to make something dour and forceful about Sean’s inner demons. Bolger’s striking turn as a hitch-hiker with unexpected musical abilities completes an intriguing trio; End of Sentence ends up as a road movie in the vein of Five Easy Pieces, and that’s high praise indeed for a drama that skilfully turns some venerable indie clichés inside out. An Irish/Icelandic co-production, this comes from Samson Films, who hit big with Oscar-winner Once, and End of Sentence is every bit as good as that popular success.


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