Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) is motherless on Mothering Sunday (a UK/Irish holiday celebrating mothers). Abandoned by her mother at a young age, Jane grew up an orphan and has spent most of her life working as a maid for the Nivens (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman). The Nivens and many of the families of the community have suffered a great loss during WWI. The only young man to come back alive was Paul Sheringham (Josh O’Connor), a law student who lives next door to the Nivens. Jane and Paul carry on a clandestine affair. Their steamy romance is fleeting because Paul must marry someone else equal to his social class. He proposes to the Emma (Emma D’Arcy), a young woman adorned in the latest fashions and from a good family but whose blood has run cold due to the tragedy that’s befallen her. Jane must come to terms with love and loss and channel that into her writing.
Directed by Eva Husson and based on the novel by Graham Swift, Mothering Sunday offers viewers a period piece that is both idyllic and cut with tragedy. It’s perfect for Downton Abbey fans looking for something a little more subdued but of the same era.
I wish Colin Firth and Olivia Colman were given more to do in the film. Due to the nature of their characters, Firth is quite reserved and Colman has a few outbursts of anger and frustration. But otherwise they’re supporting players with small roles, Colman more so than Firth.
The main stars are O’Connor and Young who have great chemistry. Jane’s life is shown in three stages: her affair with Paul, her romance with Donald (Sope Diris), and her later years as a celebrated writer (played by Glenda Jackson). Her two romantic partners have great respect for her. No toxic relationships here. I found this to be quite refreshing.
Mothering Sunday is part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival Special Presentations slate.