Sorry for the bad taste pun but it was that or “end of the road”. Yes, Tom makes it to the end of his journey, literally. This is very spoilery about his past and how the ending plays out, so if you’re just after my review it’s here.
Though initially we are led to believe that it is Mary who, as an old woman, is diagnosed with and dies of cancer, it is actually Tom who is ill. Although when they meet the doctor she talks about treatments and time left, she never says it is she who is unwell, we just assume it. Presumably she actually dies of a heart attack, as Tom finds her in their garden lying dead on the ground. When Tom ends up in hospital after a bus crash on his long journey, the medic sees his records and discovers he has cancer in three places: liver, lung and kidney, the same three we heard about in the hospital room with Mary.
Tom refuses to come back to the hospital though, as he knows he has very little time left before he dies and he has to get Mary’s ashes to Cornwall. Finally we know why he is so desperate to keep going, and why he is in such pain and indeed so taciturn with people who want to help him. The physical pain must be unbearable.
During the film we also see flashbacks of young Tom and Mary with a baby girl, at Christmas. The great horror that first sends them away from Cornwall in 1952 is their daughter Margaret’s death, on Christmas Eve 1951, just before her first birthday. Mary always refuses to go back to Cornwall, until she changes her mind but is too old to make the journey.
When he finally reaches Cornwall (but not yet Land’s End), Tom visits the churchyard and finds Margaret’s grave, and leaves behind a framed photograph of her with her parents. (In a sentimental film this is genuinely heartbreaking — “Our baby” is engraved on the headstone.)
He has one more journey to complete, to Land’s End itself. When he gets off the last bus there is a crowd of people waiting for him, who have been following his journey on social media. Tom is unaware and unconcerned by them, and walks past them onto the stone pier, struggling even to make it along to where he can scatter Mary’s ashes. But manage it he does, and after scattering them into the water the screen goes blank.
Young Mary is on the back seat of a 1950s bus. Old Tom walks towards her up the aisle, and she asks him if he’s ready. He sits next to her and the bus trundles off.
The credits are quite moving, with the made-up social media posts that mention Tom and his journey flashing up.