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Young's incisive performance carries 'Mothering Sunday'

Phil on Film
Odessa Young and Olivia Colman star in "Mothering Sunday." Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.
Posted at 12:26 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 10:52:00-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN0 — "Mothering Sunday" may just have what it takes to get some early awards-season buds. The elegant and poignant romantic drama fuels its slow burn with forceful fervor.

Adapting the Graham Swift novel, director Alice Birch uses a steady hand and confident storytelling to spin a gnawing tale of lust, longing and betrayal.

Set in the early 20th century, the film has some "Downton Abbey" and "Bridgerton"-style vibes. Earning its R rating with explicit, though tasteful imagery, the film is edgier than both of those pop-culture phenomena combined.

In a career-launching performance, Odessa Young plays Jane Fairchild, a maid to an uptight, well-heeled couple (Olivia Colman and Colin Firth) who becomes ensnared in controversy and scandal.

With muted emotion and simmering intensity, Young steals away in a series of torrid affairs, starting with Paul Sheringham (Josh O'Connor), whose past is locked in an unwanted engagement.

The cruelties of life remove the objects of Jane's affection and replace them with others. She becomes enamored with writing, and finds in her work ways to divert the trials she faces into human truths, transforming her hobby into a calling.

While the film suffers from the malady that afflicts many novel adaptations — the hurried effort to cram too much content into too tight a timespan — "Mothering Sunday" manages to progress without feeling rushed or forced.

While it might have been a better fit for a miniseries adaptation, the film is a well-crafted gem in the rough worth pursuing and admiring.

RATING: 3 stars out of 4.

Phil Villarreal is the senior real-time editor for KGUN 9. He is also a digital producer and host of "Phil on Film" seen weekly on Good Morning Tucson, Phil moved to KGUN after 17 years with the Arizona Daily Star, where he was a movie critic, columnist, and reporter. He has penned three books: Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, Stormin' Mormon and Zeta Male. A University of Arizona business graduate, he has four children. Share your story ideas and important issues with Phil by emailing phil.villarreal@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.