Skip to main content
film review

Odessa Young’s work with her ever-changing (and aging) character Jane Fairchild succeeds in bringing a complicated and resilient character to life in Mothering Sunday.Robert Viglasky/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Mothering Sunday

Directed by Eva Husson

Written by Alice Birch, based on the novel by Graham Smith

Starring Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor and Colin Firth

Classification 14A; 104 minutes

Opens in select theatres April 8

Critic’s Pick

To frame a film around a writer can be tricky: writing is as solitary as it is tedious. Fortunately, Mothering Sunday, a heart-wrenching drama directed by Eva Husson and based on the novel by Graham Swift, shows that people are more than what they do. They are also the sum of their traumas.

Set mostly in 1924, the story explores a secret affair between housemaid Jane (Odessa Young) and aristocrat Paul (Josh O’Connor). Following the First World War, Paul is the last surviving son of his family, and the son of a family friend of Jane’s employers (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman). And while Paul’s upcoming wedding is meant to mark joy, the compounded grief is still too smothering. At least for everybody but Jane. In the wake of her own grief, she rejects the oppression of her class and finds solace in storytelling – an avenue through which her sorrow is worked out.

Emma D’Arcy as Emma Hobday, Odessa Young as Jane Fairchild and Josh O’Connor as Paul Sheringham in Mothering Sunday.Jamie D. Ramsay/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media

Triumphantly, Young’s work with her ever-changing (and aging) character succeeds in bringing a complicated and resilient character to life. But with a film so rich in performances, it’s disappointing not to have been given more time with Firth and Colman, who so beautifully capture what it means to be defined by loss. Or maybe, as gleaned from the film, to embody what happens when love has no place to go.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article was incorrect in describing Paul’s relationship to Jane’s employers. This version has been corrected.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter, with film, TV and streaming reviews and more. Sign up today.