Starring: Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Olivia Colman
Director: Eva Husson
Running Time: 110 mins
Mothering Sunday is a British film about a housemaid in post-World War I England who meets with her secret love, a wealthy aristocrat who is soon to be married to another woman.
A painfully laborious watch, Mothering Sunday not only fills itself with all the tropes of period drama that you could imagine, but does so in the most tedious, meandering way, offering up only a few minutes of genuine emotional intrigue among over an hour and a half of one-dimensional social commentary and melodramatic romance.
Basically, if you liked Pride And Prejudice, but didn’t think there was enough nudity or swearing, then Mothering Sunday is for you. Even though it’s set a good few decades after the Austen classic, this film feels completely caught up in the wrong era, with its attempts to introduce some social context surrounding the fallout of the First World War really falling flat.
The first two-thirds of Mothering Sunday are exhaustingly dull, as it plays out at a snail’s pace with a wandering, lost mind that offers very little in the way of insightful or captivating dramatic depth.
Intersplicing moments of romance and reflection from different parts of our main character’s life, the film’s half-hearted attempts at non-linear storytelling are distracting to say the least, serving as little more than a respite from what is in effect an hour-long bedroom scene.
Almost the entirety of the first two acts focuses on Odessa Young and Josh O’Connor’s forbidden afternoon of romance, where they break all the rigid rules of polite society and aristocratic life.
This seems to serve as the film’s attempts to offer some kind of social commentary on the upper classes, but it amounts to little more than “Gasp! People have sex, swear and walk around in the nude behind closed doors!”
It’s far from a liberating perspective on the era, and the long, tedious sequences in which we see Odessa Young’s relatively working class character roam the grand halls of an aristocrat’s manor are little more than skin deep, proving the dullest parts of the whole film.
The only saving grace for Mothering Sunday comes at the start of its final act, when a degree of real, urgent drama comes into play and the film briefly does away with its vacantly abstract analysis on the façade of the British upper classes.
Coupled with more context to bring those flashbacks from earlier on into focus, Mothering Sunday at least offers some emotional intrigue in its final half an hour or so, although it’s far from the heart-wrenching experience it thinks it is.
As a result, I really struggled to enjoy Mothering Sunday. A painfully dull watch at times, the film is only saved late on by an engaging twist of fate, but it still struggles to do much with its central themes, too often getting caught up in an indulgent, one-dimensional dismantling of the aristocracy that never makes for an interesting watch. So, that’s why I’m giving Mothering Sunday a 5.9 overall.