Mothering Sunday – 57th Chicago International Film Festival Capsule Review

Mothering Sunday, 2021

Directed by Eva Husson.
Starring Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Glenda Jackson, Sope Dirisu, Nathan Reeve, Samuel Barlow, Dexter Raggatt, Patsy Ferran, Charlie Oscar, Emma D’Arcy, Simon Shepherd, Caroline Harker, Craig Crosbie, Emily Woof, Alex Cubb, Forrest Bothwell, and Albert Welling.


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.


In the middle of performing her maidly duties for the Niven household, Jane (an evocative Odessa Young, bursting with dynamic body language) answers a phone call. On the other end is Paul (Josh O’Connor, also expressive and captivating), although Jane refers to him in code as a madam with the wrong number. In Mothering Sunday, they are intensely in love and having a secret affair. Yet, such surface-level fiery romance never elicits an investment considering director Eva Husson (collaborating with screenwriter Alice Birch, adapting the novel by Graham Swift) only seems to be concerned with place and time (the grieving between World Wars) rather than character exploration or giving the relationship a hint of depth beyond the lust of the forbidden couple’s opportunistic seizing of the titular holiday for their first instance of privacy.

To be fair, there are also stories within stories. Glimpses of an elderly Jane (Glenda Jackson) reveal the cushy life of a successful author, whereas other flashforwards (still relatively young) depict Jane in a different relationship, this time with philosopher Donald (Sope Dirisu), at an earlier stage of her novelist ambitions.

It’s almost unbelievable that a film centered on infidelity, burning love, relentless displays of intimacy (Odessa Young probably has more scenes naked than she does clothed, and should be applauded for having the courage to perform some of the basic tasks she does on screen here while bearing all) is incapable of working up a plot worth caring about.


However, if you still want to see something unabashedly steamy and horny without much of an engaging plot, tickets can be purchased here.

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]


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