17 Jun 2020

Movie review: Love Sarah

From At The Movies, 7:33 pm on 17 June 2020

Love Sarah is a family comedy-drama following three generations of women as they set up a bakery in honour of a woman they all love.

Simon Morris: There’s a certain genre of movie that I’m getting a bit sick of now – or at least sick of how lazy the perpetrators seem to be.  

It’s shorthand to lump it under the catch-all phrase “feelgood” movie, but it’s more specific than that.  

It invariably features nice veteran British actors in a group - quaint elderly people, quaint female people, quaint elderly female people – all glued together by a gimmick.

It could be rock and roll dancing as in Finding your Feet, or an exotic hotel in India, or even nude pinups like Calendar Girls.  

But no matter how lame or condescending they are – let’s call them “Compulsory Happy Ending films” – at least they usually boast better casts than they deserve, often featuring the statuesque Celia Imrie. 

Celia Imrie has cornered the market on the “Modern Merry Widow” character ever since she invented it in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 

Here she finally gets top billing in Love Sarah, playing Mimi, the mother of the title character, a brilliant chef called Sarah.

Sarah and her Mum have fallen out – not literally, although Mimi used to be a successful trapeze artist in a circus.

Take that, all you haters who regularly suggest that characters in “Compulsory Happy Ending” films – “C H E” or “Cheese” for short - are thinly drawn and predictable. 

As it happens, both Mum’s career and the character of Sarah are cut short.  

Before we can discover why mother and daughter are at odds, there’s a terrible bike accident. 

But thanks to the always-helpful music track in films like this, we saw it coming long before they did.

We briefly abandon Mimi to hook up with Isabella, Sarah’s would-be co-chef in a new venture – a brand-new bakery in Notting Hill. 

For some reason, I imagined this meant loaves of bread and buns, but I’ve not been keeping up with the copious cooking shows on British TV.  Baking means “cake”, the more complicated the better.  

Now that Sarah’s gone, the cakes are about to be placed in the hands of dishy new cook Matthew.

That’s enough of Matthew.  We need to bring back Mimi to provide the cash for the cakery. Clearly trapeze-work in a circus pays rather better than I imagined.

And along the way, we also gather up the late Sarah’s daughter Clarissa, a would-be dancer, now more interested in becoming a waitress.

OK, gritty realism is never the defining characteristic of Cheese movies. It’s enough that everyone drops what they were doing to make the late Sarah’s dream come true. 

Clarissa waits like a pro, Isabella and Matthew cook up romance in the kitchen, while Mimi proves adept behind the till.  All she needs is someone to flirt with.

It’s Felix, played by Fleabag’s Bill Paterson, twinkling away as we wait for the inevitable crowds to arrive.  

But we’re only three-quarters of the way into Love Sarah. What we need is one more final gimmick.  

What about “Cakes of All Nations”? You know, traditional dishes of the world, whipped up overnight by a bunch of middle-class Brits?

Before you can say “condescending enough for you?”, the shop – named “Love Sarah” in case anyone wants to make a movie of it – is a triumphant success. 

Along the way, there are happy endings aplenty for everyone, particularly merry widow Mimi, who’s ready to offer Felix a bit of figurative trapeze-work after hours.

Nothing succeeds like Cheese. That’s certainly the hope of films like Love Sarah, but all too often, like here, the idea and the cast deserve better.  

I’ve got nothing against “all’s well that ends well”, but as Shakespeare could have told the producers of this film, even a Compulsory Happy Ending has to be earned. Otherwise, it just feels undermixed.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to At The Movies

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)