Mothering Sunday: Film Review


Odessa Young and Josh O’Connor lead Eva Husson‘s period romance drama as housemaid Jane Fairchild and her wealthy family’s friend Paul Sheringham, respectively.

The film revolves around one Mother’s Day in 1924. The Nivens – Colin Firth and Olivia Colman – are off out for a picnic with the Sheringhams and give their maid Jane the day off, so she enjoys a steamy illicit afternoon with Paul, despite the fact he’s supposed to be there too.

Although the narrative revolves around their sexual encounter, the film jumps back in time to reveal more backstory and how Jane and Paul met while also jumping forward to the 1940s, with Jane now in a relationship with Donald (Sope Dirisu), and again to the present day, with Jane as a writer played by Glenda Jackson.

I can appreciate why Husson chose to jump around so much – the film would have been rather dull and ordinary if it went in chronological order and it helps maintain some intrigue about the characters as you don’t learn everything about them straight away. But she got too carried away with this narrative technique. The scenes within the three major timeframes (1918-1924, the 1940s, present) aren’t even assembled in chronological order; it really is all over the place and there are no time stamps to help you so it is rather confusing and disorientating. At the start of every scene, you have to figure out which timeframe you’re in and where it fits in context with the other scenes you’ve already seen. It admittedly gets easier as it goes but it pulls you right out of the story because you’re constantly trying to make sense of everything and put it in a logical order.

Because of this jumping around and the seriously slow luxurious pace, you just don’t feel what you’re supposed to. Mothering Sunday actually tells a really sad, tragic story, but I didn’t feel anything because the structure got in the way of my emotional connection to it.

On the flipside, I have to praise the gorgeous costume and production design, the ageing work on Young and the cast. I was particularly impressed by Young, who captivates in her understated role, while O’Connor is as charming as ever. They had believable chemistry together and their roles required full-frontal nudity so hats off to them for stripping off onscreen. Dirisu comes across well but his character is rather flimsy. I wish we had got to know him better.

Colman and Firth aren’t in this film very much but they do a lot with their screentime and make an impact as bereaved parents. Colman’s Clarrie is overwhelmed by grief and in this zombie-like mournful state but she gets a couple of moments to break out of that in the best way. Firth’s Godfrey tries to be cheerful and upbeat despite their tragedy so it’s all the more heartbreaking when his facade drops.

It’s quite difficult to get fully into Mothering Sunday because the narrative constantly prevents you from doing so, which is a real shame as the story is good and the performances are excellent.

In cinemas Friday 12th November

Rating: 3 out of 5.