End of Sentence treads a familiar path. And, initially, Elfar Adalstein‘s father-son-centric drama is a particularly downtrodden affair that audiences may not believe they’ll warm to. The film’s lead characters don’t come off as the most inviting either – Logan Lerman‘s fresh-out-of-prison Sean and his doormat dad, Frank, played by John Hawkes – and their fractured relationship only highlights the former’s moody temperament and the latter’s penchant for being a pushover.
But then the Michael Armbruster-penned script moves the proceedings to Ireland – in an admittedly habitual narrative trope – where Frank has been sworn by his recently-deceased wife to spread her ashes along the Irish coast as to honour her family heritage, and the film transcends whatever predictabilities it’s laced with. Sean’s recent freedom also played into her wishes as she expects her troubled son to join daddy-dearest on the journey, something that (understandably) he doesn’t care to uphold.
As much as Sean’s sullen attitude and Frank’s incessant need to forge a connection feels tried, the Irish setting allows a certain softness to wash over the narrative, especially when it introduces local drifter-of-sorts Jewel (Sarah Bolger). Sean takes an immediate fancy to her, and Frank is predictably cautious (he’s right to be though), and whilst her presence again plays into expected story directions – a sing-a-long in an Irish pub? Of course! – it does allow a sense of charm to reveal itself, a more organic manner in breaking down the relationship between Sean and Frank.
As unoriginal as End of Sentence is at its core, it’s a testament to Armbuster’s dialogue, Adalstein’s pacing, and the committed performances of Hawkes, Lerman and Bolger that it holds interest and manages to twist the standard fractured-relationship-of-father-and-son into something more ethereal. The Irish backdrop proves a lush contradiction to the more thawed relationship between Sean and Frank, and it’s in both the film finding its footing regarding their relationship and Lerman and Hawkes committing to showcasing the humanism of their respective flaws that the film finds its beauty.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
End of Sentence is available on VOD and digital platforms across the United States from May 29th 2020. An Australian release is still to be announced.