End of Sentence is available to rent or buy.
What are the ingredients of a perfect road trip drama? Secrets revealed? Love lost and found? Enlightenment? Whatever works for you, this sub-genre has given us some of the finest films of the past 30 years, from Almost Famous to My Own Private Idaho and Thelma and Louise. However, with so many road trip movies, creating something new, distinct and engaging can be challenging. But Elfar Adalsteins’ debut feature, End of Sentence, comes pretty damn close to offering us something new with a delicate story of a father and son torn apart by secrets and unspoken trauma.
Our journey begins with Frank Fogle (John Hawkes) and his terminally ill wife, Anna (Andrea Irvine), pulling up outside the visitor’s centre of a local prison. Inside, their son Sean (Logan Lerman) is nearing the end of his sentence for car theft. However, his release will come too late for his ailing mother to see him walk free, so she has come to say her final goodbye.
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Several months later, Sean walks free, his only wish to escape to California for a new job and life. However, Sean’s plans are quickly derailed when his dad, Frank, shows up at the prison gates with a duffle bag full of clothes, demanding he gets in the car. Frank attempts to explain to Sean that his mother’s final wish was to have her ashes sprinkled on a mountainside lake back east and that she requested he and Sean undertake this journey together. Sean is less than keen but finally agrees on the condition that he is back in California in three days to start his new job. However, this is no short road trip, as Frank has yet to mention how far east the lake is!
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At the heart of End of Sentence is a long-held divide between a father and son rooted in events darker than a simple generational divide or rebellion. Here the film’s themes of abuse, power, and unspoken pain are central to the experience of both our father and son as our story progresses. John Hawkes is outstanding as Frank; here, his ability to reflect the hidden, repressed emotions of a father grieving for his late wife and lost son is compelling. At the same time, Logan Lerman’s Sean is a powderkeg of anger, hurt and frustration, a young man desperate to escape his father’s shadow no matter the personal cost. The result is an astonishingly accomplished debut feature from Elfar Adalsteins, one that understands just how deep many men attempt to bury their past pain.
As a road trip, End of Sentence never attempts to offer us any simple conclusions. Here the film’s final scene is rooted in an inescapable truth; secrecy is never easily overcome, and honesty is never straightforward when wrapped in so much pain. However, as this father and son near the end of their unusual road trip, one thing is clear, the trip was just the beginning of a much-needed healing process.