MOTHERING SUNDAY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Mourning and grief collide with steamy sexuality in the British film Mothering Sunday, a costume drama set in 1924 soon after World War I. The romance in question is an Upstairs, Downstairs situation between a fetching orphaned maid named Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) and the surviving son of a well-off family. She works for the upper-class Niven clan and has been carrying on a secret affair for years with Paul Sheringham, the lone surviving son of a near-by clan (the Emmy-winning Josh O’Conner aka the young Prince Phillip on the TV series The Crown).

Both O’Connor and Young have no trouble with exposing any angle of their nude bodies as they steam up the screen, complete with evidence of bodily fluids on the sheets. Something that you would never see in Lady Mary Crawley’s room on Downton Abbey, save for that Turkish diplomat who died in her bed. As Paul leaves to join his parents for the holiday meal, Jane decides to wear only her birthday suit as she checks out the Sheringham estate – especially the library.

Alas, Paul is engaged to be married to Emma Hobday (Emma D’Arcy) in 11 days hence and he realizes that his trysting days with Jane are pretty much over. What might be worse is that Emma was once unofficially engaged to Paul’s late brother, who died in the war. Meanwhile, Paul joins his parents for the Sunday meal while Jane trots around the house without a stitch. Luckily, French director Eva Husson didn’t skimp on her casting choices, most notably recruiting Oscar –winning talents Colin Firth and Olivia Colman as the Nevins. Given the somber atmosphere, both actors are at half-mast emotionally as they should be – considering what happens at the end of the 1924 period.

The screenplay then jumps ahead to the 1950s, when Jane forges a relationship with Black philosopher Donald (Sope Dirisu). We then jump further ahead to the present day and that brings us the wonderful Glenda Jackson as the elder Jane, who has become a revered author with countless literary honors.

One note—the esteemed costume designer Sandy Powell brings out her usual great designs, nudity be damned. Meanwhile, award-winning cinematographer Jamie Ramsay knows how to dress up Mother Nature, as he focuses on Young’s silky skin in the natural light.

EDITOR’S NOTE:MOTHERING SUNDAY is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for March 25, 2022.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.