Opening 23 Dec 2021
On a beautiful mild spring day in March 1924, Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young), a young maid, has her day off. While her employers, Mr. and Mrs. Nivens (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman), meet up with the local gentry for a picnic, Jane sneaks off to visit with the son of one of these neighboring families, Paul Sheringham (Josh O’Connor), while his parents attend the picnic. The young couple spends an intoxicating few hours together, most of it naked in Paul’s bedroom. When Paul leaves to finally join the picnic, Jane has the run of his family’s house to herself, where she wanders, still naked, through the beautiful rooms filled with possessions she can only dream of having. It is the last time Jane will ever see Paul, and she’s already grieving the loss of their secret relationship, though that grief will be transformed by the end of the day.
This is a movie very focused on grief: the Nivens and the Sheringhams have lost their sons in the First World War, and their collective pain is best articulated by Mrs. Nivens whose rage balances out her husband’s bumbling befuddlement in the face of loss. Jane wants to be a writer, and the movie flashes forward in time to reveal how she manages to turn these stories – and her place in them – into successful novels. Mothering Sunday is filmed in a lush and careful way, taking time to linger on details and moments that stretch out into posterity. It’s a slow film, but it’s never dull. Jane’s future accomplishments as a writer stem from the events of this single day, from the love affair with Paul to the miserable advice Mrs. Niven bestows upon her, beseeching her to turn her disadvantages in life into advantages. So director Eva Husson takes the time to capture this day from all its angles, richly examining the hours of Jane’s life so that she can juxtapose them against moments in Jane’s later relationships and experiences. The result is a beautifully rich and moving film. (Diana Schnelle)