Scores for Love Sarah
Cloying sweetness: 5
Sickness-provoking sweetness: 5
I clicked on the link for the trailer cynically and hatefully but then something softened in me and I allowed my heart to open to the schmaltz and emotional exploitation and I thought: "This, too, is okay."
I said to myself a movie doesn't need to fulfill some grand artistic or existential ambition to offer me something. I told myself to stop being a snob and to approach the movie as a child, full of excitement and wonder. I thought about the childhood Sunday morning I had felt ashamed at my tears while watching Old Yeller, and I felt ashamed at my imposition of shame on that little boy. "Be without shame," I told myself as I sat down with Love Sarah. "Connect to the story emotionally, if nothing else. Allow yourself to be moved." As it turned out, that didn't work.
The movie tells the story of a family united in grief and shared capitalist endeavour who realise the best way to get rich is by borrowing the cultural resources of the ethnicities around them, then selling those resources back to those people, who appear in the film mostly as extras.
When you put it like that, which is to say the way it is, it sounds problematic - and it is but, as I said, I was allowing my heart to soften. Zanna loves it when I do that and that was part of my motivation but I'm also always striving to be the best person I can be, although that's also mostly for Zanna, who frequently points out the ways in which I fall short.
From a business perspective, the movie is shot full of holes. Although one of the owners is portrayed as a high-flying businessperson, it's only after their cafe opens and has no customers that they attempt any promotion. But it's not fair to spend too much time worrying about the business-related plot holes because our attention is required elsewhere, on the many, many other problems: weak characters, poorly developed love stories, wobbly narrative and the aforementioned cultural appropriation/exploitation.
My niece was staying with us, having just broken up with her long-term partner and this was far from the first romance-heavy thing we'd made her watch. Each time we started something new, I would whisper to Zanna, "We can't do this to Caitlin" but Zanna would shoosh me and say it was best not to make a big deal of it. I think she was generally wrong about that, but in this case she was right. As the movie reached its weak denouement, my heart hardened against the attempted emotional manipulations of idealised romance. Hopefully Caitlin's did too.
There's a genre of film – let's call it heartwarming – that I classify as watch alone content because I know Greg is uncomfortable with having his heart warmed and this, coupled with his loud eye-rolling, spoils it for me. Love Sarah falls into this category so you can imagine my shock when he said: "I'm going to be really open to enjoying this movie."
Ordinarily, a film of this description - three grieving women open a bakery together, tagline: All Good Things Come to Those Who Bake - would get an instant dismissal. But this one time Greg buried his cynicism way down deep inside where he keeps his self-esteem and he was open; truly open.
Sadly though, he never will be again because Love Sarah was not good. It pains me to come down so harshly on a little film with a sweet concept but this script needed about 10 more drafts before going to production.
The premise is that Sarah is about to open a bakery with her best friend Isabella when she is killed on her bike. Later, her daughter Clarissa abandons her dance career and convinces her estranged grandmother Mimi, along with Isabella, to join forces and open the bakery in Sarah's name.
About 15 minutes into the film, things looked promising. It was a nicely set up feminist concept that would explore the different manifestations of grief and female friendship. But nope. In walks Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones) to pummel my hopes with his big dick energy (BDE) and it's all downhill from there.
It's not really fair to review a film by a first-time screenwriter unless it's outstanding but 2020 is such a s***show and there's so little happening in theatres, it was slim pickings. The problem with Jake Brunger's script is that it lacks depth. There is plenty to mine from this story but no mining is done - it's overly simplistic, without nuance or any real character exploration.
It's not all bad though: the performances are pretty decent. I adore Celia Imrie in the television series Better Things, she's great here too and backbends on a trapeze like a boss.
Sadly, by the end of the film Greg's cynicism had burst straight back out of his chamber of repressed emotions and we will probably never watch a "heartwarming" film together again. But I can't really blame Love Sarah for all that, and if I'm honest I like watching these kinds of films alone.
Love Sarah is in cinemas from June 12