Graham Swift's Mothering Sunday was a critical hit and recipient of the Hawthornden Prize when it was released in 2016. Four years later, an adaptation of his story, set on a single day in 1924, became a hot property on auction at the Cannes Film festival and was snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics. With Oscar winners Olivia Coleman (The Favourite) and Colin Firth (The King's Speech), plus Josh O'Connor (The Crown) attached, and the production overseen by Number 9 Films (The Price of Salt adaptation Carol), the film seemed to be destined for the Awards circuit. Instead, the film will now come out at one of the most inopportune places, usually seen as the place to dump projects that did not work, Oscar weekend.
To be fair, this was not the plan, and due to the ongoing upheaval due to various COVID strains, merely an accident of shifting schedules. Once a February staple trying to inch itself into January, the Academy Awards got shoved back to the end of April in 2021 and is trying to roll itself back up the calendar, with this year landing on March 27. Mothering Sunday was initially slated to come out in the pre-Oscar run-up, February 25, opening against the indie favorite musical Cyrano starring Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage, backed by positive reviews from its 2021 Cannes debut.
But pandemic depressed audiences caused producers to shift things down the schedule, and now it debuts (albeit in limited release) in the worst place possible. Moreover, it will have much stiffer competition in this spot. It opens against the already critical darling Everything Everywhere All At Once, starring Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek: Discovery), which will undoubtedly suck all the oxygen out of the room one can find on Oscar weekend. But even with the competition and the chance that its limited release will do minimal numbers, this is a film fans should still check out. Here's the trailer.
For those who have not read the novel, the film follows the same story:
Set over a day in 1924, the story follows Jane Fairchild, a maid in the Niven household, who has the day off to celebrate Mothering Sunday while Mr. and Mrs. Niven attend a lunch to celebrate the engagement of their neighbor's only remaining son, Paul, to Emma Hobday. For almost seven years, she has – joyfully and without shame – been Paul's lover. Like the Nivens, Paul belongs to England's old money aristocracy, whereas Jane was orphaned at birth. With the house conveniently empty, they can finally meet in Paul's bedroom for the first time. Today will be their last as lovers. It is also the day that will mark the beginning of Jane's transformation as the story unfolds through the hours of clandestine passion.
Mothering Sunday stars Odessa Young (Shirley) as Jane, with Glenda Jackson (Elizabeth Is Missing) as her older self. O'Connor plays Paul Sheringham with Colman and Firth as Mr. and Mrs. Niven. The cast also includes Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù (Gangs of London), Patsy Ferran (Black Narcissus), Emma D'Arcy (House of the Dragon), Simon Shepherd (Alex Rider), Caroline Harker (Middlemarch), Emily Woof (Oliver Twist), Craig Crosbie (The Bill), and Albert Welling (Inspector Morse). Director Eva Husson (Hanna) helmed the film from the adapted script by Alice Birch (Succession).
Mothering Sunday debuts in limited release in the U.S (mainly New York and Los Angeles) on Friday, March 25, and then will slowly roll out to wide release over the coming weeks.