Deborah Ross

I want to support cinema but I have my work cut out with Love Sarah

At least Celia Imrie is watchable and the cakes look scrumptious – even if they are a bit of a coronavirus risk

I want to support cinema but I have my work cut out with Love Sarah
The ever watchable Celia Imrie as Mimi in Love Sarah
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Love Sarah

12A, Selected Cinemas

Some cinemas have reopened, with the rest to follow by the end of the month, thankfully. But the big, hotly anticipated films — Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, for example, or A Quiet Place II — won’t be out for a while yet, as opening schedules are adjusted. However, there is a new film that is cinema-only: it’s British, and it’s called Love Sarah. It stars Celia Imrie and is about three generations of women who seek to overcome grief by founding a bakery in London’s Notting Hill rather than running away to join Isis, say. (Is it always a bakery in Notting Hill or does it just feel like that?) I want to be kind as I want to support cinema. But I have my work cut out here.

This has the look of a Richard Curtis film, which we would have tried not to hold against it, but on reflection I’d say it’s not even a Richard Curtis film. (See how I have my work cut out? See?) Directed by Eliza Schroeder and written by Jake Bunger, the film opens with a woman riding her bike through London. This is Sarah, played glimpsingly by the Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown. Sarah is killed in a road accident, which isn’t a spoiler, as it happens at the very start. She leaves behind a best friend, Isabella (Shelley Conn), with whom she was due to open a bakery, and a mother, Mimi (Imrie), and also she has a daughter, Clarissa, played by Shannon Tarbet. (Is it always Isabella, Mimi and Clarissa or does it just feel like that? Would a ‘Linda’ or ‘Sue’ have killed them?) Clarissa talks Isabella into going ahead with the project while Mimi, who is guilt-ridden as previously she had refused to help Sarah, agrees to come in as a partner. Interestingly, Mimi appears to have been a trapeze artist who founded a circus. But as this is never developed, I can’t tell you much more except that there must have been money in it, as she lives in a mews house in Knightsbridge that has to be worth millions.

The trio, who are capable of renovating a derelict shop seemingly overnight with no help whatsoever — not a plumber or electrician in sight! — do need a baker, as that would have been Sarah’s remit. (She ‘trained with Ottolenghi’.) Enter Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones), the chef who was also Sarah’s ex but says it was always Isabella who most interested him. (But you banged Sarah anyhow? Nice.) Films don’t have to be true to life but they do have to be true to an idea of life and throughout this you will be thinking: but no one behaves like this ever. The fact that any of them might be in mourning and suffering a terrible loss is wholly ignored. There’s a first meeting between Mimi and Clarissa after Sarah’s death where you have no idea at all that a mother has lost her daughter and a daughter has lost her mother. The trio are ace renovators — not even a plasterer! — but never seem like actual people, and also will drive the literal parts of your brain insane. Did Sarah leave no effects? Why would someone just happen to be carrying binoculars? Would you whip by hand in a commercial kitchen? Why does no one turn up for work until mid-morning?

The film wants to hit the usual romcom marks but both the rom and the com elements are stilted and underwhelming. It also takes no risks and there are no surprises beyond Mimi’s genius idea for making their bakery stand out by catering to a multicultural clientele, with the surprise being that no one points out that London is already full of places like that. Mimi, stick your head out the door. See Lisboa Patisserie, at 57 Goldborne Road? Does the best Portuguese tarts ever!

However, on the plus side, Imrie is always watchable, and the cakes do look scrumptious. Even if they’re never domed, and anyone could cough all over them. Tried to be kind. Failed. Sorry.