The nicest thing I have to say about “Mothering Sunday,” at the risk of sounding like I prude (which I am not), is that at least the producers saved a ton on wardrobe expenses because the two lead actors spend a lot of their time onscreen sans clothes. This screen adaptation of Graham Swift’s novella about a secret love affair in post WWI England is a misfire on all counts.
Young house maid Jane (Odessa Young) is a loyal servant for the Nivens (Olivia Colman and Colin Firth), a couple who lost their sons in the war. With her employers away for the day, Jane is given time off to do as she pleases. She sneaks off to spend the entire afternoon in bed with her lover Paul (Josh O’Connor), a wealthy young man who is engaged to be married to a woman of greater social stature.
That’s it, that’s the plot. It’s not a particularly good story, and it doesn’t make for a good movie, either. The character development isn’t just slow going, it’s never fully realized. I developed zero connection to any of the characters because I never really learned who these people are. That’s a huge flaw in a period piece like this, and I can only conclude that the film assumes a familiarity with the source material that I didn’t have.
If you want to watch scene after lengthy scene of sexy rendezvous set in 1924, then this film may be for you. The rest of the themes are so weak and poorly presented that I can’t imagine who would actually enjoy — or even want to watch — this one.
This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
By: Louisa Moore