TIFF ’21: ‘Mothering Sunday’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Director Eva Husson’s Mothering Sunday is a period piece that explores the meaning of love and friendship. Jane (Odessa Young) works as a maid for the Nivens (Olivia Colman and Colin Firth), an aging home counties couple who, like so many other families, lost their sons on the battlefields of the First World War. Jane is having a secret affair with Paul (Josh O’Connor), son of the Nivens’ neighbours, the Sheringhams. The weekly luncheon has everyone in their positions, which makes for a steamy Sunday on the countryside. There is something so special about Husson’s storytelling that it will make you understand the characters on a personal level.

What writer Alice Birch explores is the idea of love and how it can be perceived in different ways. Paul and Jane have a mutual love and respect for one another. Their friendship is strong and their attraction to each other is even stronger. The class divide in period pieces has always been the tale of star-crossed lovers, but what Birch created with Jane and Paul’s relationship, is something more modern, unlike other period pieces I have seen. Maybe it’s because I can relate to Jane on a personal level. By watching someone you genuinely care about, end up with someone else, even though, you know nothing will come from that relationship.

Even with its disjointed narrative, the connection to Jane and Paul was very strong. As we move through Jane’s life, the flashbacks while she’s writing her novel, is really effective. Right down to pieces of dialogue, tying into crucial moments, that lead her to becoming a writer. The editing was incredibly well done and worked so well for the way Husson was exploring Jane’s life. The editing reflected the mind of a writer. Sometimes clouded in judgement, sometimes choppy, and jumping to the next idea.

Mothering Sunday is a lovely addition to the genre of period pieces. Odessa Young gives a very strong performance and carries the film. Her chemistry with Josh O’Connor is what draws you in at the beginning of this film. Jane and Paul’s relationship was more than just sex. It was an exploration of each other’s bodies, their souls, and their minds. Husson really captured those moments quite well, making their relationship as natural as possible. It felt, as if, all women have had many different lives and as they grow older, the next chapter just has more obstacles to overcome and it’s harder to move on.

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