- Movie Rating -

Mothering Sunday (2022)

| March 25, 2022

Mothering Sunday is one of the most expertly crafted films that I’ve seen in a very long time.  Luminous, slowly-paced and beautifully edited, it constructs the ways in which the memory works.  Most flashbacks in movies happen in short bursts or long narratives, but the director Eva Husson and the writer Alice Birch (adapting a novel by Graham Swift) understand that memories are sculpted and hewn down by time, sanded down to the peak elements that our subconscious wants to remember.  This film is constructed that way.  The wind through a yard, the squeak of a bicycle, the curves on a lover’s lips, the poetry of someone’s voice that probably wasn’t as polished when they were actually speaking.

For Jane (Odessa Young) there were key moments long ago, remembering England in the 1920s just after the war.  She worked as a maid for a wealthy family, always on the outside looking in.  In her station, wrought by class distinction, she is an occupational observer of the lives of the wealthy never to be privileged enough to be in their company but always required to hover around them.  She is a keeper of their secrets while also harboring a desire to be a writer.

She, it turns out, held onto a secret of her own.  For a number of years, she carried on a sexual affair with Paul Sharingham (Josh O’Conner who plays a much different role here than he does as the insecure Prince Charles on “The Crown”) the last surviving son of an aristocratic family.  He is the son of a family that is very good friends with her employers Godfrey and Clarrie Niven (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman).  Naturally, it comes to pass that Paul must be married to a woman of his station, a ball of emotional frustration named Emma Hobday (Emma D’Arcy).

These memories are important as they are looked back on over many years that are covered by cause and effect of things that happened then, then in the 40s and then when she is an old woman in the 1980s (played all-too-briefly by Glenda Jackson).  Buy why was this one day in 1924 so important?  It was Mother’s Day and there is a reason that she keeps returning to it.

Much of this (and I’m not giving away the specifics) have to do with the time.  This was England in the 1920s, the years just following The Great War when almost every family in Europe was grappling with the loss of a son, a brother, a father, a cousin, a nephew, a friend.  Jane remembers the mourning shock still present on everyone’s faces – rich and poor – still in deep sorrow for someone who is never coming home.

Jane’s memories throughout the years are very specific, and very much hewed down to their core.  She remembers the highlights and only specific details that are sometimes disjointed but make up a cohesive whole – we can fill in the blanks.  All of it is very effective at creating a tapestry of how her mind works looking back over several years but unfortunately this is not a great film.  The emotional weight of what Jane was experiencing and what she remembers don’t land in a way that leaves an impact on you.  When it is over you’ve seen an expertly crafted film that doesn’t pull at the heart in the way that it probably should.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Drama