Love Sarah

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Love Sarah
dir Eliza Schroeder
scr Jake Brunger
prd Rajita Shah
with Celia Imrie, Shannon Tarbet, Shelley Conn, Rupert Penry-Jones, Bill Paterson, Candice Brown, Max Parker, Andrew David, Lucy Fleming, Cynthia Garbutt, Pano Masti, David Bertrand
release UK 11.Sep.20,
US 15.Jan.21
20/UK 1h37

imrie henry-jones paterson

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imrie, tarbet and conn
Sensitively written and directed, this comedy-drama opens with a tragedy before shifting into a more upbeat tone. The plot is carefully multi-layered to hold the interest with warm emotion, sparky wit and plenty of character detail. This may feel constructed, but the recipe has been proven to keep the audience happily sighing all the way through. And this likeable film never pushes too hard or outstays its welcome.
On the day she buys her first shop in Notting Hill, baker Sarah (Brown) is killed in a traffic accident. Struggling emotionally, her business partner and best friend Isabella (Conn) is at the end of her rope, as are Sarah's dancer daughter Clarissa (Tarbet), who is homeless after splitting with her boyfriend, and Sarah's estranged mother Mimi (Imrie). It's Clarissa who convinces Isabella to continue with the plan to open the bakery, and she gets Mimi on board too. Then Michelin-starred Matthew (Penry-Jones), who had a history with Sarah, applies to be their chef.
Everything's a bit scratchy and dour until the sexy Matthew arrives, brightening everyone up with some well-baked deliciousness. And Isabella's glowering about his womanising ways is a clear signpost that a rom-com subplot is in the mix, as is Mimi's flirtation with a local (Paterson). There's also Clarissa's suspicion that Matthew could be her father. But the more interesting angle is Mimi's realisation that catering to London's multinational population is their key selling point, baking hard-to-find delicacies from various homelands.

Each character slots into the carefully shaped plot, offering endearing touches. Conn's Isabella is perhaps the most complex one, as she reluctantly rediscovers her love of baking. Tarbet is terrific as the smart, thoughtful Clarissa, who has quite a lot to deal with as she grapples with her identity and future. And Imrie holds things together with a grounded performance as the prickly mother hen. Meanwhile, Penry-Jones brings a superb blast of charm to the film, even if his character is rather underwritten. And Paterson has plenty of presence in an even thinner role.

The film has a nicely open-handed feel to it, focussing more on the characters and interaction than the requirements of the various narrative threads. This makes it both more engaging and sometimes surprising as things don't always lead in the expected directions. Even a few moments of sentimentality don't undermine the crowd-pleasing atmosphere. And at its heart this is a gently pointed story about the importance of opening up honestly to those around us, putting our egos aside and building a family.

cert 12 themes, language 11.Jan.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall