- Emma Simmonds
- 2 March 2020
GFF 2020: Celia Imrie rises above a so-so, Notting Hill set culinary dramedy
Cliches and cakes provide the foundation of a so-so romantic dramedy from director Eliza Schroeder, which sees a Portobello Road bakery opened in tribute to a recently deceased chef. With death and painful regrets troubling its players, the ingredients suggest something more substantial but the result is assuredly light and fluffy.
Celia Imrie is Mimi, an affluent yet isolated pensioner who loses her estranged daughter Sarah in a cycling accident, before she's had a chance to make amends. When her ballet dancer granddaughter Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet) appeals to her for help to open the artisan bakery her mother had planned, the pair team up with Sarah's best pal Isabella (Shelley Conn) to make Sarah's dream a delicious reality.
Before these 'sisters' realise they can do it for themselves, in swaggers the smug Michelin-starred Matthew (a charmless Rupert Penry-Jones) and what a 'master baker' he is. His will-they-won't-they history with Isabella inspires a flaccid romance ('Bake with me,' he grunts euphemistically, while her susceptibility to such smarm is truly head-slapping) and there's paternity intrigue with poor Clarissa, as the possibility arises that he could be her dad.
With its rom-com tropes and Notting Hill setting it attempts to appeal to fans of the film of the same name, as well as viewers of TV's Bake Off but, if the location is suitably cute and vibrant, the script lacks flavour, the direction is flat and, without nuance or imagination, the low budget shows. Meanwhile, sans the accompanying spark or humour, some of the details (Mimi's history as a trapeze artist, her romance with an inventor played by Bill Paterson) seem random rather than delightfully eccentric.
As Jake Brunger's script jumps through tired narrative hoops without doing the requisite character work, it feels flimsy (Clarissa is barely assigned a personality, and Conn isn't the most convincing romantic lead). However, Love Sarah isn't entirely without curveballs and its celebration of London's multiculturalism is well-intentioned if awkwardly executed. Moreover, the cakes look reliably appetising, Imrie still manages to shine, while there's obvious cross-generational appeal. Not totally unpalatable then, but nowhere near sweet enough.
Screened on Sat 29 Feb and Sun 1 Mar as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2020. Selected release from Fri 24 Apr.