The brief, torrential affair of a young student named Tony Webster (Billy Howle) with a girl named Veronica Ford (Freya Mavor) ends poorly due to a double-cross of one of Tony's best friends followed by a letter filled with vitriol.
And a diary. A diary that will become the crux of the narrative of the new film "the Sense of an Ending."
In the film, opening Friday, Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent stars as the older Tony, now a largely reclusive man who leads a quiet life and assists his adult daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) as she prepares to give birth to Tony's grandchild. Tony remains on friendly terms with his ex-wife, Margaret (Harriet Walter), who is also Susie's mother.
But then Tony's past comes back to haunt him in the form of a mysterious letter.
"I read the book first, and then I just loved the script," Mr. Broadbent told The Washington Times, adding that he was a fan of director Ritesh Batra's earlier film, "The Lunchbox."
Mr. Broadbent, 67, felt an instant kinship with Tony: They both are the same age and came from similar life circumstances and education.
"I knew what he was about; I understood him," Mr. Broadbent said. "I just knew who he was and thought I'd love to play with that character."
At the behest of Mr. Batra, Mr. Broadbent had lunch with Mr. Howle, who would play the younger version of Tony, at the start of production.
"We weren't trying to be like each other in any way, but Ritesh was more concerned that we had a similar sort of sensibility," Mr. Broadbent sent of meeting the younger version of his character. "We just made sure we were more or less on the same wavelength."
Mr. Broadbent said he was drawn to the "investigation of history" aspect of "Sense of an Ending," which is based on the 2011 book of the same name by Julian Barnes, and whose central narrative depends on one's own personal biases about history and interpretation of earlier events.
"I loved the unreliable nature of history and how we all invent stories about ourselves," Mr. Broadbent said.
Memory and history indeed come back to haunt Tony, and later in the film, he has a key scene with his former love Veronica, now played by Charlotte Rampling.
Mr. Broadbent said the script was so well constructed that he and Miss Rampling didn't need to deviate from its plan even slightly in their scenes together.
"How to play it was very much suggested by what's on the page," he said of the crucial scenes with Miss Rampling's older version of Veronica. "It was the usual acting job to get it across and make it sound as natural as possible and make sure you're in character and telling it as truthfully as you can."
Mr. Broadbent has over 150 film and TV credits to his extensive resume, from the shifty game show host of "Your Money or Your Life" in the Terry Gilliam cult classic "Time Bandits," the "Bridget Jones" films as the titular writer's father, the "Harry Potter" films, his Oscar-winning turn as John Bayley, who must care for his true-life novelist Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench) when she is afflicted by Alzheimer's in "Iris," and even as Harrison Ford's boss in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
When asked where in his home he keeps his Oscar statuette for "Iris," Mr. Broadbent, in an understated British manner, says only that it in his office "on a shelf with a number of other trinkets."
"I don't like it to be in the middle of the house because it becomes the conversation," he said.
But when asked if he would reprise his role of Dean Charles Stanforth in the yet-untitled fifth - and presumably final - Indy adventure, Mr. Broadbent becomes immediately animated.
"I'd be there if I was asked, I'm sure," he said.
While waiting to find out if George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in fact find a way to get him back into the adventures of the fedora-sporting archaeologist, Mr. Broadbent is quick to heap praise on "Sense of an Ending" director Mr. Batra and his instinctive feel for the material of the new film.
"He's very caring and extremely observant - very competent and not going to be hurried nor pushed into something," he said. "Somebody said to me, 'How does it feel working with someone who had directed one film before?' and you never go that impression. He was absolutely competent and seemed to be totally at home behind a camera."
Mr. Broadbent said that the taciturn Mr. Batra wouldn't so much "direct" the performances so much as gently nudge them to "maybe do it again" in another way.
"It was never any sort of a demonstrative" manner, Mr. Broadbent said. "It was very, very subtle and very quiet [but] very impressive."
But at the end of the day, it was a good story that got Mr. Broadbent to sign on for "the Sense of an Ending."
"I love a good narrative, the way it unfolded," he said. "I just loved the script, the personnel and the character."