Mothering Sunday Parent Guide
The film is evocative but the constant nudity is excessive.
Parent Movie Review
“Once upon a time. Before the boys were killed.” For Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) the days before World War I feel like something out of a golden past. Although the young housemaid works in the Nivens family’s beautiful home, the environment is suffused with grief, loss, and almost unbearable anguish.
As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the Nivens family and their friends, the Sheringhams and Hobdays, have been scarred by the terrible losses of the Great War. Young Paul Sheringham (Josh O’Connor) bears the burden of carrying the families’ hopes into the future through a successful career and suitable marriage. But Paul has his own scars and comforts himself by having an affair with Jane, whose beauty he admires and whose quick mind he appreciates.
Mothering Sunday is the name of a traditional British holiday, usually spent with one’s family. Knowing that servants will be given the day off and the family house will be empty, Paul arranges for Jane to spend the afternoon with him. Although most of the events of the film take place on that day, the scenes move back and forwards through time, giving viewers a perspective on Jane’s life and the influence this Mothering Sunday will have on her.
Let me begin with the positives here. Mothering Sunday is an incredibly evocative film. The camera work is lovingly done with warm, golden light suffusing the frame in many scenes. Details are painstakingly captured and audiences will feel like they have been transported to the spring of 1924. The cast is superb and I have to give particular praise to Colin Firth who plays Mr. Niven with desperate affability, trying cover his pain with forced cheer. At social events he’s quick to smooth over any anguish that might seep out, shakily restoring a veneer of normalcy. In contrast, Olivia Colman plays Mrs. Niven as a woman rendered nearly catatonic with grief. Their performances are so powerful that their emotions are palpable through the screen.
As for the negatives, I can sum them up in one word: sex. There is a lot of sex in this movie; multiple scenes of Paul and Jane having sex in a variety of positions and with complete nudity. The nudity is particularly notable since both actors spend a fair bit of time naked, even when they’re not having sex. Nude post-coital scenes are extensive and even more graphic than the sexual encounters. In fact, Odessa Young spends so much of the movie naked that I can probably make a reasonably accurate guess at her bra size.
The profound impact of the First World War on the people of Great Britain is an excellent choice for a screenplay. There’s a lot to look at here, from the effects of the conflict on individuals and families to the erosion of the British ruling class. And while Mothering Sunday successfully explores those painful individual emotions, it’s so full of sexual content that I cannot recommend it. There are other films that can convincingly transport you back to this era – and everyone in them will be fully clothed.Directed by Eva Husson. Starring Colin Firth, Odessa Young, and Olivia Coleman. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release November 19, 2021. Updated October 7, 2021
Watch the trailer for Mothering Sunday
Rating & Content Info
Why is Mothering Sunday rated R? Mothering Sunday is rated R by the MPAA for sexual content, graphic nudity and some language.
Violence: There are oblique references to death in wartime. There’s mention of a man dying in a car accident. The burning car is shown. A man falls and gets a cut that bleeds. A man is seen dying of cancer.
Sexual Content: There are post coital scenes with differing levels of nudity, including full frontal and rear male and female nudity. A man and woman kiss. A man undresses his girlfriend and her breasts are seen. A couple has sex: her breasts are visible and he is clearly thrusting above her. A sex scene has a woman on top of the man. Semen is seen on the sheets. Blood is seen after a woman has sex. There is reference to contraceptive methods. A naked woman, with visible breasts, is seen throughout several scenes of the film. A woman kisses her maid. A woman removes a diaphragm. A painting of a naked woman is briefly visible.
Profanity: There are four sexual expletives and a few terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Cigarette smoking is frequent among all characters. Adults drink alcohol at social occasions.
Page last updated October 7, 2021
Mothering Sunday Parents' Guide
What effect does the war have on Paul? How does this affect his relationship with Jane? How does their relationship affect the rest of Jane’s life?
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