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‘Mothering Sunday’: Robin’s movie review

For this week's Movie Minutes, Robin Holabird takes a look at a new British period drama Mothering Sunday.

 A movie poster for "Mothering Sunday." Actress Odessa Young is dressed as a maid as she stands in front and center with four other castmates against a solid, red background. Josh O'Connor and Olivia Colman stand behind Young's right shoulder. Sope Dirisu and Colin Firth stand behind her left.
Sony Pictures Classics

Ears prick up when hearing the cast combination in Mothering Sunday: Colin Firth, Olivia Colman, and with a screen return after 30 years, Glenda Jackson. However, the three serve primarily as a marketing tool for a theatrical release of a film that oozes the elegant sensibilities of an arty, period drama.

The royal trio of Oscar-winning performers serves mostly as window dressing with small, unchallenging roles they handle with expected aplomb. The story centerpiece goes to Odessa Young as Jane, an orphan whose advancement covers three different stages in her life. The most formative incident happens in 1924 on Mother's Day - known in England as "Mothering Sunday" - when Jane works as a maid whose open outlook on life presages an impressive future.

Based on a respected novella by Graham Swift, the movie Mothering Sunday exudes literary qualities as Jane displays a fascination with books and insights that go beyond her station in life. Among her forward-thinking actions, an affair with a neighboring member of the upper class avoids the usual pitfalls of power and status.

That affair teams actress Young with Josh O'Connor, recognizable from his Emmy-winning turn as Charles in The Crown. Neither Young nor O'Connor boast the years and track record of the movie's big-named stars. But both more than hold their own in naturalistic performances.

Their love scenes play into director Eva Husson’s skill in conveying the sensuality of movement and looks. Lingering shots on textures, fabrics, skin and faces provide a woman’s sense of sex as rich and pleasurable rather than quick and meaningless. Full-frontal nudity puts the movie in the R category without any lurid exploitation. For all its sensuality, Mothering Sunday often comes across with the same inertness as its stiff, upper-crust characters. Minimal action and pacing that adds a few extra O's in the word "slow" put the movie’s appeal squarely in the artistic realm of beautiful visuals that lack major narrative.

This review aired on KUNR FM on Friday, April 8.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse a full archive of her reviews here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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