Film review – Love Sarah

Screening nationally from 2 July 2020
In Canberra at Belconnen, Woden and Palace Electric

Jake Brunger, writer
Eliza Schroeder, director
Rajita Shah, producer
Enis Rotthoff, composer

If, like me, you are a habitual watcher of BBC television series – crime, domestic dramas, comedies, mysteries, spy stories, the absurd  – you will know actress Celia Imrie. She has appeared in countless films, television productions and on stage. For me it is Kingdom, Poirot, Miss Marple, Midsomer Murders and the like.  

Imrie is a performer who has mastered the art of using the slightest facial movement to portray a world of emotions. Her quiet, poignant performance in Love Sarah for me is the film’s greatest strength.

She plays Mimi, a woman estranged from her daughter, in an exploration of grief, regret and the path to redemption. The death of her daughter, Sarah, at the beginning of the film is flagged from the very first scene of Sarah cycling into the blue beyond and the ringing of her unanswered phone.

For the rest of the movie the story unfolds of the circle of closest friends and relatives that was Sarah’s life. We travel with them as they work together to fulfil Sarah’s dream of a top notch bakery in Notting Hill. Interestingly, it is the realisation that being great cake makers is not the path to success, but rather understanding the community in which they sit.  

Personal realisations of course also play a large part in the passage from messy reality checks to happy success, to rapprochement and forgiveness (of self and others). There is also some stellar baking as part of the visual feast of the film. Who could resist the white cake plates laden with French pastries and perfectly formed artworks of flour and sugar? Not me.

A familiar and likeable cast populates the film, including Rupert Penry -Jones, whose many other performances include Spooks and Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (movie). For the most part he is a good and noble soul in Love Sarah despite his general air of upper class rakishness.

The camera lovely Shelley Conn, known to us from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Death in Paradise and Heartbeat, is convincingly grief stricken and desperate to fulfil her obligation to her best friend. Less known to me is Shannon Tarbet, who plays Sarah’s beautifully young and naïve dancer daughter.

Bill Paterson, the inventive neighbour, has the local wisdom and sound advice needed to kick the business along in the right direction but also takes a shine to Mimi (mutually), extending the film’s love light in two generations . What we see very clearly is the different and highly personal way we experience grief and loss.

Writer Jake Bruniger says of the film:

Beyond all else, I want this to be a warm, accessible film that a family  of  three generations can go and see together, something that might even strengthen their relationships or make them reassess what’s important. That’s always been the wish of my writing: to have multi-generational appeal with a strong life-affirming strand running through it too.

Love Sarah is unquestionably a feel-good movie, and I am willing to forgive its probably predictable story line and its inevitable happy ending. I wanted one.  Perhaps the timing is just right for that in COVID-19 2020.  Its gentle slow pace is a balm