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End of Sentence review – a masterclass in understated acting

The Guardian - Tue May 4 14:00

John Hawkes is one of those actors with a lived-in quality that pulls viewers in before a single line of dialogue is even spoken, and End of a Sentence is yet another testament to the stunning ease with which he slips into his roles. A healing road trip that takes the audience from Alabama to the winding roads of Ireland, Elfar Adalsteins’ directorial debut captures well-trodden paths with fresh eyes.

Frank (Hawkes) is a mild-mannered man with a severe exactness to his gestures, the polar opposite of his volatile and impulsive son Sean (Logan Lerman), who has just got out of prison after doing time for car theft. As Frank’s wife has died, the estranged pair are forced to squeeze into a plane, and then a car, as they fulfil her dying wish to have her ashes scattered at a lake in Ireland. Along the way, they pick up Jewel (Sarah Bolger), a hitchhiker with a troubled past, all while attempting to exorcise their shared demons.

End of a Sentence is a reminder of how pleasurable it is to see genuinely pitch-perfect acting, the kind that quietly brings characters’ inner lives to the fore. The father-son relationship feels beautifully real, due in part to the precise, economical writing but also to the effortless chemistry between Hawkes and Lerman.

Despite her brief screen time, Bolger is arresting and memorable, no easy feat considering that her character feels like a plot device. This writing, along with the occasional on-the-nose song choice and heavy-handed colour correction, lets down a film that is at its best when the camera takes a step back and simply allows the action to unfold.

  • End of Sentence is released on 10 May on digital platforms.