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TV/Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘Mothering Sunday’ (dir. Eva Husson) | TIFF 2021

I really enjoyed this approach on the secretive, forbidden romance, but I wish it leaned more into that theme a bit. I wanted there to be more risk or excitement, story-wise, but that’s just not what ‘Mothering Sunday’ is going for.

In Mothering Sunday, the story follows Jane (Odessa Young), the wealthy Niven family’s maid, who has a secret love affair with Paul Niven (Josh O’Connor). The only problem: Paul is engaged to marry another girl from a notable family in the area.

I really enjoyed this approach to the secret, forbidden romance, but I wish it leaned into that theme a bit more. I wanted there to be more risk or excitement, story-wise, but that’s just not what Mothering Sunday is going for. Josh O’Connor and Odessa Young’s chemistry is palpable, and that is honestly why this is successful at all.

Visually, this hits all the right beats that it should as a British period piece. There is something to be said for the cinematography. While it does feel a little safe, there is nothing about it that doesn’t work in the end. Where it breaks all the rules is how far it takes the sultry sensualness of it all.

It’s a dreamy romance. I think the period piece component is done really well, and the cast couldn’t have done better with these characters. These actors are so talented, but you already know that if you’ve seen them in other films or series.

Josh O’Connor brings his sense of charm that we’ve all come to know and love. Odessa Young serves up a sweetly subdued performance that pairs perfectly with O’Connor’s character’s confidence and exuberance. Mothering Sunday is very much Josh and Odessa’s film. There are other characters, but these two are who you’re going to remember.

What was especially shocking for me is the extremely high level of nudity that was in this. Full-frontal. Sex scenes. You’re getting it all. While that part of it will feel a little bit over-the-top for some, I thought it really emulated reality by showing how a moment between these two people would actually look. After sharing such an intimate time together, afterwords, they wouldn’t be talking to one another while wrapped up in bed sheets up to their neck. In that sense, it reminded me a lot of Normal People with stretches of scenes where characters were completely naked.

Olivia Colman is unsurprisingly incredible. While hardly a main character and barely even supporting, what we do see of Colman is impeccable. Colin Firth is similar in that he has very few lines, so everything he does say and everything he does do feel important.

It is March 30, 1924, and the story takes place over the course of that single day — Mothering Sunday. Odessa Young’s character is reflecting back on this day, so we’re seeing things in a reactive sense.

Really important and seemingly pivotal scenes sometimes feel like they should last just a few minutes longer. Their is an element that is left to the imagination, to interpretation. That works in some cases but not always.

Everything moves at a glacial pace, emphasizing moments both sweet and somber that happen In private. In the moment, it feels very real. Life isn’t always exciting or quick. Things happen slowly. There can be quiet moments with meaning. Days can be aimless. However, that’s also what hurts this film in the end because those moments add up and can seem slightly unmemorable and underwhelming.

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