RFF16: Mothering Sunday

Odessa Young and Josh O’Connor lead Eva Husson’s adaptation of Graham Swift’s novel

Mothering Sunday by Eva Husson has been one of the most talked about title since Cannes: the film, starring Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Colin Firth and Olivia Colman, has finally come to Rome Film Festival even if we don’t know when it will be released.

The opening scene of Mothering Sunday is composite: it’s made up of voices and images, that will make you think you are about to watch a new Terrence Malick film, but you are not. Those fragments are part of a more linear a private tragedy set in a warm spring, in 1924: the young Jane Fairchild, a maid at an English country house, meets with her secret lover, Paul Sheringham, the heir of a neighboring estate. Paul is about to marry a rich girl who befits his social status, so he has to break up with Jane, before it’s too late. Events will unfold in a way that changes Jane’s life forever, but compensating her with the gift of writing. 

Based on Graham Swift’s novel of the same name, Mothering Sunday is first of all a story of passion and pain: Jane is an orphan and everyone doesn’t forget remind her how “lucky” she is to not have a mother or being one on Mother’s Day. While all the characters soberly celebrate what’s left of their families, publicly mourning  the sons thy lost during the war, she will lose the love of her life even if to the eyes of the people she works for, she has nothing to lose. Jane will live in the past, turning her memory into books, becoming and adult and a successful writer. 

Eva Husson’s film is well-crafted, with excellent performances by Young and O’Connor (who play Jane and Paul) and the on-screen couple Firth-Colman adding their first-class acting to the entire work. The steaminess of the central relationship is there to catch the attention of the viewers, making them feel involved in Jane’s personal drama. 

As it happens in the book, the narrative goes back and forth across the twentieth century, but sometimes the film editing looks confusing, asking the viewer to make an effort, and pick up the thread of the story more than once. Also, Odessa Young plays Jane both in her youth and her early adulthood: despite her excellent performance, her looks are not credible for a 40-year-old woman. 

Two little flaws in a film that, in any case, is a celebration of beauty and melancholy that leaves a lasting impression. 



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