Mothering Sunday

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Mothering Sunday
dir Eva Husson
scr Alice Birch
prd Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley
with Odessa Young, Josh O'Connor, Sope Dirisu, Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Glenda Jackson, Emma D'Arcy, Patsy Ferran, Charlie Oscar, Caroline Harker, Simon Shepherd, Craig Crosbie
release UK 12.Nov.21,
US 25.Feb.21
21/UK Film4 1h50

dirisu colman firth
london film fest

Is it streaming?

o'conner and young
With a delicate touch, this British period drama explores weighty issues from creativity to grief by getting under the skin of its central character. While the plot is perhaps thin, the depth of feeling is enormous. Director Eva Husson has an unusually sensual approach to filmmaking, building an intensely naturalistic tone in relationships. And the larger themes are so resonant that we can't help but see ourselves in here.
In rural 1924 England, neighbouring families have lost all their sons in the war except one: Paul (O'Connor), who is engaged to marry Emma (D'Arcy), his late brother's fiancee, But he's secretly having an affair with Jane (Young), a young maid for the Nivens (Firth and Colman), and their relationship is too strong to ignore. Over one Sunday afternoon, a series of events gives way to a distant future in which Jane and her boyfriend Donald (Dirisu) grapple with serious issues of their own. Later still, a much older Jane (now Jackson) tells her story.
While the main story thread is set on a Mother's Day (the title is the original British name for the holiday), scenes flicker into the past and future to create a vivid sense of how one event leads to another. Specifically, this is a story about how Jane became a writer, weaving her life experiences into her work. So while much of the story centres around the oceans of grief these characters seem to inhabit, there's an alert observational quality that surges through everything.

Young and O'Connor have remarkable chemistry, quietly connecting on a profound level, with their easy nakedness adding an unusual honesty. These are complex characters who watch and listen, speak thoughtful words and clearly adore each other. And the people around them are equally layered, often submerging enormous pain under stiff upper lips. Firth and Colman are both tremendous in smaller roles. Dirisu adds involving textures to his scenes with Young. And Jackson is simply wonderful on-screen.

Husson takes an unusually visceral approach to this material, relying on impressions and feelings as imagery shifts from one time frame to another, both leading into and out of this single momentous day. What emerges is a strikingly big picture of this young woman's life, as her innate curiosity and perception lead her into situations and then are empowered by life events to push her even further. It's a gorgeous exploration of the true nature of artistic expression, and a lovely recognition of the ways our lives shape us. Cannes/Toronto/London tt12229370

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 28.Oct.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall