The initial draw to costume dramas may be that of time travel; to place oneself in history and escape from the trials of the present day. From the historical attire to the archaic technology, a period piece calls to a simpler time. Mothering Sunday, a new film from Lionsgate serves as a splendid addition to this genre.
Based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Graham Swift, Mothering Sunday follows the story of Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young), an orphaned young housekeeper for the opulent Nivens family of 1924. The Nivens family gives Jane time off for Mother’s Day and she proceeds to rendezvous with Paul Sheringham (Josh O’Connor), son of a neighboring family, who she is having an affair with. After a time to the 1940s, Jane recalls her youth and pursues her passion as a writer.
As her third feature film, Eva Husson directs Mothering Sunday with upcoming actress Odessa Young, and Josh O’Connor of The Crown, alongside other notable names such as Olivia Colman and Colin Firth. The actors appear to invoke a sense of melancholy in their appearance, with the most joy occurring as Young portrays Jane being enamored with O’Connor’s character Paul. Their performances were convincing, amid dreamy sequences of desire.
The visuals of Mothering Sunday alone make the film captivating. The cinematography provides views of gorgeous countryside and ornate houses. The careful attention to historical fashion and settings of the 1920s and 1940s is nearly flawless but interrupted by sudden transitions between the two eras. Period piece enthusiasts may take delight in the visual aspects of Mothering Sunday.
With my unfamiliar perspective on period dramas (my most recent one being the Bridgerton series), Mothering Sunday is a visually stunning work that feels akin to a lazy Sunday afternoon, “a beautiful day” as Colin Firth’s character Mr. Nivens puts it, yet lackadaisical. The seemingly symbolic camera close-ups became overused and confusing as to their purpose within the plot. Surely the movie felt like time-traveling, if time travel is like that of sleepwalking, mindless and disorienting upon waking up.
It’s a shame that the progression of the story felt lost to the spontaneous artistic shots that did little to support the plot. If the constant hopping between time periods was not as abrupt, this film might have been more palatable. For those craving a period drama for purely aesthetic reasons and not for a strong narrative, Mothering Sunday may potentially satisfy you.
About Mothering Sunday
Synopsis: A maid living in post-World War I England secretly plans to meet with the man she loves before he leaves to marry another woman.
Director: Eva Husson
Writer: Alice Birch
Stars: Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Colin Firth
Runtime: 1 Hour, 44 Minutes
Releases: March 25, 2022 (USA)