John Hawkes and Logan Lerman star in this Irish-set father-and-son road trip
Dir. Elfar Adalsteins. Iceland/Ireland, USA. 2019. 96 mins
The relationship between Frank Fogle (John Hawkes) and his son Sean (Logan Lerman) is an aggravated open wound which shows no sign of healing. As far as Sean is concerned, his meekly smiling father is the last thing he wants to see when he walks out of prison. Frank is a reminder of the weakness that Sean despises and rages against. But the dying wish of his mother Anne is that her husband and son take her ashes from their home in Alabama to be scattered at a lake in the north of Ireland, the country of her birth. This sensitively handled road trip follows a well-worn route: father and son develop a new found mutual respect, while also discovering a hidden side to the wife and mother who forced them together. But the fact that we can perhaps predict the end of this journey doesn’t lessen its emotional impact.
Sensitively handled road trip which follows a well-worn route
This is a confident first feature from Elfar Adalsteins, the Icelandic producer of Fredrik Thor Fredriksson’s Mama Gogo now turned writer/director. Following its world premiere in Edinburgh, End of Sentence should connect with further festival audiences. A package which combines the arthouse credibility provided by the always impressive Hawkes, a forceful turn from Lerman, plus the Irish backdrop could prove attractive to distributors looking for solid middlebrow fare.
This sensitively handled road trip follows a well-worn route: father and son develop a new found mutual respect, while also discovering a hidden side to the wife and mother who forced them together. But the fact that we can perhaps predict the end of this journey doesn’t lessen its emotional impact. Following its world premiere in Edinburgh, End of Sentence could connect with further festival audiences. A package which combines the arthouse credibility provided by the always impressive Hawkes, a forceful turn from Lerman, plus the Irish backdrop could prove attractive to distributors - or streaming networks - looking for solid middlebrow fare.
The anger that fuels Sean’s nuclear glare and stabbing verbal parries seems, at first, disproportionate. Gentle Frank, with his plaintive refrain that he “did the best that he could, in difficult circumstances” would seem to be the one with more right to be aggrieved. Sean’s is a particularly bullish and indiscriminate sort of rebellion, the kind which lashes out to cause pain to everyone, himself included. Having served his sentence for car theft, Sean’s plan is to take himself across country to Oakland, where a job is waiting for him, and start a new life. One which doesn’t include his father. But Frank barters with him the offer of the house in Ireland that neither knew Anne owned.
Before they can embark on the journey to the lake, there’s a wake in Dublin with Anne’s Irish relatives. It’s a fateful evening. Frank, battered by stories of his wife’s “wild streak”, becomes fixated by a photograph of Anne, thirty or so years previously, straddling a motorbike and clinging to a handsome stranger. And Sean meets Jewel (Sarah Bolger), an Irish beauty with a canny, appraising gaze and a violent boyfriend she is planning to escape. Despite Frank’s reservations, Jewel hitches a lift with the pair. Her presence threatens to further drive a wedge between father and son.
Music is, for the most part, judiciously used. An impromptu rendition of ’Dirty Old Town’ by Jewel and a pub folk band lays on the Irish charm a little thick. But it’s a moment of real power and the first glimpse of the vulnerability beneath Sean’s hard anger.
Not everything works. An action sequence in which Sean recovers his mother’s lost ashes is a tonal swerve which doesn’t entirely convince. But the film soon returns to an even keel, with the gentle empathy of Hawkes’ performance doing much for the emotional authenticity of the journey.
Production Company: Berserk films
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Producers: Elfar Adalsteins, David Collins, Sigurjon Sighvatsson
Screenplay: Michael Armbruster
Cinematography: Karl Oskarsson
Editor: Kristján Loðmfjörð
Production design: Ray Ball
Music: Pétur Benediktsson
Main cast: John Hawkes, Logan Lerman, Sarah Bolger, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson