End of Sentence
After the death of his wife, mild-mannered Frank Fogle (John Hawkes) reaches out to his estranged son Sean (Logan Lerman), who’s just been released from jail, to carry out her final wish for her ashes to be scattered at a lake in her native Ireland. Sean reluctantly accepts his father’s invitation, and the pair embark on a journey from Alabama to Dublin, during which their troubled relationship is put to the test. Although the premise of End of Sentence takes viewers down a well-trodden road, director Elfar Adalsteins executes this father-son drama with skill and tender subtlety in a feature debut that makes the familiar route a worthwhile experience.
What makes Adalsteins’s debut noteworthy is the nuanced way it handles the themes of masculinity at the heart of Michael Armbruster’s script. Frank is skittish and naively trusting. He hides his emotions out of insecurity, whereas Sean is the polar opposite: he’s brash, arrogant, and domineering. He isn’t afraid of confrontation and refuses to show any of his own weaknesses. In a more conventional outing, the pair would butt heads and eventually come to an understanding about each other after a grand, heartfelt gesture. But this isn’t the case here. Their reconciliation plays out on a much smaller scale, while leaving just as big an impact.
The filmmaker trusts viewers to understand the complexity of the characters’ emotional conflicts without having to address them directly. The soundtrack’s choice of songs act as extensions of the scene rather than guides to tell viewers how they should feel, while the quieter moments are allowed to exist undisturbed. Even the against-type casting of Hawke and Lerman could be viewed as another way in which masculinity is explored here.
Delightful as Hawkes and Lerman are, though, it’s Sarah Bolger who steals the spotlight as a troubled hitchhiker who the Fogles pick up on their travels. Though her character arc is rather predictable and nowhere near as interesting as her companions’, Bolger lends the role so much charisma and likeability that viewers will fall for her Irish charm as easily as Sean does.
In many ways, End of Sentence is a conventional affair, but it’s Adalsteins’s thoughtful approach to the otherwise typical father-son journey that will leave a lasting impression on audiences.
End of Sentence is released digitally on demand on 10th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for End of Sentence here: