Road trips leave indelible memories. Whether good or bad, the experience forges a bond between travelers. End of Sentence is a touching drama about a father and son reaching common ground in Ireland. A journey that begins in grief and anger takes a few unexpected turns. The characters are forced to examine the long buried events that drove them apart. End of Sentence is a realistic exploration of human nature. It shows that the gulfs that divide us can be bridged.
End of Sentence opens at a prison in Alabama. Frank Fogle (John Hawkes) takes his terminally ill wife (Andrea Irvine) to see their incarcerated son. Sean Fogle (Logan Lerman) has nearly completed his sentence for car theft. He embraces his bald and emaciated mother deeply. They both know these are her final days.
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Anna Fogle’s dying wish is to have her ashes spread on a lake in Ireland. The brash and aggressive Sean wants nothing to do with his meek father. Frank promises Sean that he can walk away forever, but they must fulfill his mother’s last request. They attend a wake at a Dublin pub before driving north. Frank learns of his wife’s past, and becomes troubled. Sean picks up an alluring stranger. Jewel (Sarah Bolger) accompanies the Fogle men. Her presence causes further conflict in an already troubled situation.
John Hawkes has been a superb character actor for decades. He’s brilliant and nearly unrecognizable in this deferential, understated performance. The reason behind Frank’s timidity is hinted at early, then comes into clear focus as the tension builds with his son. Sean despises his father’s reserved personality. He considers him a coward. Sean goads Frank continuously to force a reaction. The interplay between John Hawkes and Logan Lerman is fascinating to behold. The actors confront the deep pain that their characters share.
End of Sentence treads into soapy territory with the introduction of the femme fatale. Father and son fall too easily for Jewel’s charms. Granted, there isn’t a heterosexual man alive who wouldn’t find Sarah Bolger attractive late night in a pub. But her character’s ability to insinuate herself into their journey is a tad too fantastic. Picking a random woman up in a bar, then taking her to spread a dead mother’s ashes feels like a stretch. Jewel works as a catalyst, but to a lesser extreme. I think that Frank Fogle would be especially wary of her motives.
The Irish setting is pivotal to the story’s success. The lush greenery, winding roads, and overcast weather add an adventurous dimension. We see the characters get lost and struggle to find their way. The drive itself becomes symbolic. The lake is not easy to reach. Getting there offers a sense of accomplishment. The final scene will lift your spirits.
End of Sentence is a small film with a big heart. It’s serious and contemplative, but never dour or heavy. John Hawkes and Logan Lerman can be proud of their work here. End of Sentence is an Icelandic production from Berserk Films. It is available to stream on demand in the United States from Gravitas Ventures.
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Film critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.