VIFF 2021 Review: Mothering Sunday

Written by Taylor Baker


Mothering Sunday is a staggered storyline period piece, that follows Jane Fairchild played by Odessa Young as she variously writes a novel, and experiences the sultry romance of forbidden love by imagining herself as the main character in the story she’s telling. Her lover Paul Sheringham is played by Josh O’Connor, and though he spends little time in our camera’s focus he is undoubtable, always seeming not only of the time but the place. Both lovers are lengthily photographed nude, in each other’s arms, lounging, or walking around. Husson’s camera never elicits an overtly sexual gaze as much as an intimate or personal one.

Vancouver International Film Festival 2021

Young’s Jane is a serving girl in the household of Niven. The head of the house of Niven is played by a tightlipped Colin Firth. Trying to stay cheery in the face of difficulty alongside his wife, played by a restrained Olivia Colman who scarcely utters a word. These two heavies seem to serve more as big name finance anchors, than any tangible value to the story. Collectively showing up for scarcely 10 minutes of total screen time.

Based on the novel of the same name by Graham Swift. Mothering Sunday like many adaptations before it accomplishes little. Young continues to have a unique magnetic quality that we’ve seen on display in Shirley and The Stand. Though that fails to compensate for the brooding slowness of the piece that loses its edge the clearer it gets. At best it’s a delicate omage to a moving piece of romanticism rather than a notable entry into the genre.

Mothering Sunday Trailer

Mothering Sunday was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

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