Starring Celia Imrie, Shelley Conn, Shannon Tarbet, Rupert Penry-Jones, and Candice Brown
Directed by Eliza Schroeder
Written by Eliza Schroeder, Jake Brunger, and Mahalia Rimmer
Unrated, but contains scenes of coarse language
Runtime: 97 minutes
Playing at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 12, at the Arden Theatre as part of Reel Mondays.
Tickets can be purchased online at https://tickets.stalbert.ca. A season pass is $50, or individual screening tickets can be purchased for $15 per ticket. All proceeds benefit the St. Albert Public Library.
Visit https://friendsofsapl.ca for more information. The second screening of Reel Mondays new season will be on Monday, Oct. 3, and the film is called The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Not often does a film's titular character die within the first five minutes of runtime, but that's the case in Love Sarah.
Set in England, the story revolves around Sarah's loved ones: her mother, her daughter, her best friend, and an old flame. Before her death, Sarah and her friend, Isabella (played by Shelley Conn) planned to open a bakery together in London.
Sarah and Isabella met in culinary school. Afterwards, Sarah's career was spent in the food industry, while Isabella — self-conscious that she wasn't as talented as Sarah — started working in the world of business. Thus, Sarah was to be the baker, while Isabella would handle the business side of their partnership.
Unable to get out of the lease the pair signed for the bakery, Isabella is left no choice but to try and sub-lease the building herself, which Sarah's 19-year-old daughter, Clarissa (played by Shannon Tarbet) won't stand for. It's not what her mother would have wanted.
After some convincing, Isabella agrees to take on Clarissa, a ballerina by trade, as a new business partner. But to open the bakery, the pair needs two more partners. Enter Celia Imrie's character Mimi, Sarah's mother, who has a tumultuous relationship with seemingly every person in London, but lots of money; and Matthew, played by Rupert Penry-Jones, an old romantic interest of Sarah's and a two-Michelin-starred chef, who has nothing but loose strings to tie up.
Providing any additional details about the characters would significantly spoil the plot of which, unfortunately, is one of the film's major flaws.
The major obstacles Love Sarah's characters face are their own emotional road blocks, but those are mainly solved through routine pep-talks. Forgiveness, kindness, familial responsibility, and curiosity in the world around you are all themes explored throughout the movie, but only with surface-level depth.
Another issue is the film's implied requirement to connect most of the plot's breakthroughs, emotional or business-wise, to Sarah. The writers seemed to push this aside when it comes to the bakery, as a somewhat random reference to French author Jules Verne's ever-famous novel Around the World in Eighty Days leads to the core characters asking people of colour throughout London which country they're from, because, according to Mimi, "nobody's from London."
Rakshitha Arni Ravishankar's 2020 article published in the Harvard Business Review, What’s Wrong with Asking “Where Are You From?”, explains why you should avoid asking random strangers where they're from.
A non-significant quibble in Love Sarah is a scene in the second half of the film where Matthew and Clarissa are chatting outside a fruit stand, and both characters help themselves to a handful of raspberries for a mid-chat snack, and leave without paying for them. Shame.
With the film's more obvious faults out of the way, there's still plenty of good aspects to report.
Schroeder's directing is beautiful, especially considering the film is her feature-length debut. Aside from some playful camera angles — make sure to catch the birds-eye-view shot early on — Schroeder does a magnificent job of exploring the texture of the world around us through changing the camera's depth perception and focus points rather frequently. The viewer can tell what the walls, the pavement, the clothing, and the baked goods in the movie would feel like to touch.
The colour grading is also magnificently coordinated and calculated, leaving the viewer feeling a sense of a deep, blue hug.
Most importantly, however, Love Sarah succeeds in what it is: a romantic comedy. The romance is spontaneous, complicated, and carefully distributed throughout. The comedy is an ongoing undercurrent that does a good job at allowing the viewer to occasionally forget the film revolves around an unfortunate death.
The film also does an incredible job at enticing cravings for high-quality baked goods. The Gazette's snack of choice for viewing were some Oreos, but they were quickly put to shame by the goodies shown on screen, such as Persian love cakes, Latvian kringles, and Japanese matcha green tea mille crepe cakes.
Love Sarah is a fairy-tale type of story, but the only monsters looking to defeat this merry band of bakers are themselves.