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Review: John Hawkes and Logan Lerman shine, but 'End of Sentence' hits some bumps in the road

The reconciliation drama “End of Sentence” opens with a mother visiting her son in an Alabama correctional facility to say goodbye. She’s dying.

Later, when the son, Sean Fogle (Logan Lerman), is released, his estranged father, Frank (John Hawkes), has a last request from Sean’s mother: for father and son to travel together to her native Ireland to spread her ashes at a lake. Frank has to bribe a reluctant Sean with a plane ticket to Oakland, where a warehouse job supposedly awaits if he can get there in five days.

The Fogles are polar opposites and it’s hard to imagine they once shared the same home, let alone DNA. Frank is kind and gentle but something of a milquetoast. He likes to quote the aphorism, “Sometimes you’re the pigeon, sometimes you’re the statue. That’s life.”

Sean, meanwhile, brims with resentment toward his father, a seared-in rage that occasionally erupts into violence. The root of that bitterness and other family secrets are gradually revealed during the trip as the men butt heads over their very different approaches to life.

The heavily plotted but vague script by Michael Armbruster leans heavily on devices and anecdotal explanations for the Fogles’ behaviors while glossing over details that might have given the story more heft and plausibility. Many of the twists and turns feel inorganic or don’t fully pay off.

The draws here are the performances. Hawkes is terrific with a softer-edged character than we’re used to seeing from the actor (“Deadwood,” “Winter’s Bone”). He’s heartbreaking in scenes where disappointment and resignation play across his face. Lerman is a fine foil, energizing scenes with his edgy impatience and willingness to be unlikable for the majority of the film.

In his feature directing debut, Icelandic filmmaker Elfar Adalsteins demonstrates a steady hand with both his actors and the pacing. Sarah Bolger has an alluring turn as an enigmatic Dubliner who joins the two men for part of the journey.

The Irish landscapes provide a pleasant backdrop, but the bumpy ride detracts from any earned satisfaction in its moving ending.

‘End of Sentence’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Available May 29 on VOD

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