Set in the spring of 1924, the film follows a housemaid named Jane (Odessa Young). With Mother’s Day approaching, we learn that Jane is an orphan and has no family surrounding her. Her employers, Mr Godfrey (Colin Firth) & Mr Clarrie Niven (Olivia Colman), decide to give Jane a day to spend in any way she pleases. But we soon learn the kind of plans Jane has for her spare time are quite unexpected. Jane decides to visit her nearby lover, Paul (Josh O’Conner), and the two share various moments of intimacy, conversation and passion. Paul is a close friend of the Niven family and is currently engaged to marry another woman.
Amidst the story of this meeting, we also get to see various points from Jane’s life, including the past when she first met Paul. We get glimpses of Jane’s future life, including when she’s an older woman working as a well-known novelist.
Mothering Sunday is best classed as a romantic period drama. Beginning with a brief introduction to Jane’s lifestyle, we quickly see her work life and gain an understanding of the kind of people surrounding her each day. The film rushes to reveal Jane’s secret love affair and share several of their discussions. As it does so, multiple sex scenes and intense moments of nudity are revealed.
Visually, the locations are highly fitting and beautiful to witness. The dramatic aspects are also well represented here and captured wonderfully. There are many close up shots of characters’ expressions, capturing frustrations or intense sadness. Side performances from Colin Firth, Olivia Colman, and Sope Dirisu are highly positive, and these actors unintentionally almost steal the scenes they share with the leads. The musical score is touching and highly effective for all the drama presented.
When it comes to pacing, the film begins with very little character introduction and offers little investment to the audience for us to care about the secret love affair. The first act has uncomfortable moments, and the true strength of this film is when we see more of Jane’s world at various points in time. However, these flashes of Jane through various moments of her life were confusing, and it was hard to understand when and where certain scenes fit in the entire story. The rest of the plot is fairly slow, and our leads feel hollow for the vast majority, mostly because they continue to do wrong things to themselves and those around them. Their choices make it challenging for an audience to like them. Granted, I did find my interest in this film and its characters grew slowly as the film progressed. During the third act, I even became a little invested, only to have credits roll down the screen shortly after.
Overall, this is a tragic drama with some touching moments within its story. It’s a film with strong visuals, a well-fitting and touching audio track, and side performances, including Colin Firth and Olivia Colman, that are unintentionally scene-stealing. But unfortunately, as a drama, I found the first act hollow and rushed to present uninteresting leads. The first act’s high volume of uncomfortable nudity and sex scenes didn’t feel warranted. Granted, as the film progressed, my investment and interest rose but sadly, by the time I felt a great impact in this story, it wasn’t long until the credits began to scroll down the big screen. Those who enjoy love stories that feel naughty and are filled with sex, drama and tragedy will obtain a pleasant experience.