Eliza Schroeder’s debut film Love Sarah is a surprisingly light-hearted romantic comedy about grief’s strange tendency to bring people together. Sarah’s (Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown) long-term dream has been to open up a bakery with her best friend, but when tragedy strikes, Sarah’s daughter Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet) is forced to reconcile with her acerbic grandmother Mimi (Celia Imrie) to make her mother’s last wish come true. If this plot seems familiar, it may be because Love Sarah is an amalgamation of every rom-com ever made, from its Notting Hill setting to its twee centrepiece bakery. That is not to say that this is a bad thing, as the film clearly leans into the trappings of its genre. Even the overarching narrative of overcoming grief is only lightly touched on in Love Sarah, and what remains is good-natured and breezy fluff.
The cast of Love Sarah is populated with various oddball characters that come together to help save the ailing bakery and fulfil Sarah’s lifelong dream. Celia Imrie gives an unexpectedly layered and nuanced performance as a former trapeze artist and begrudging grandmother, surpassing the occasionally thin script to imbue the film with emotional depth. Other characters are drawn more broadly; Rupert Penry-Jones’ Matthew comes off more like a rock star than a Michelin-starred cook, which is as charming as it is silly, and Bill Patterson has a somewhat nonsensical cameo as a crazy inventor.
Whilst Love Sarah has its heart in the right place, its gentle anti-Brexit message is hammy and plays into unfortunate tropes. When the bakery fails to attract customers in its first week, Clarissa decides to diversify their menu by enlisting the help of their multicultural neighbours. Despite how quirky the following montage of the bakers learning about pastries from all across the world is, it awkwardly falls into white saviour narratives and effectively exoticizes several non-Western cultures in the process. A deeper engagement with the topic at hand could here have helped to ground Love Sarah’s narrative in a more contemporary context.
Love Sarah doesn’t have any pretentions of being anything beyond what it says on the tin, and it’s hard to fault the film for that. Its various kooky characters and peculiar digressions into things like trapeze performances make for odd tonal shifts, but help enrich the somewhat milquetoast script. There are certainly no innovations and surprising twists to be found here, but uncomplicated, saccharine entertainment.
More information on the Glasgow Film Festival is available here: https://glasgowfilm.org/glasgow-film-festival.
[Amelie Voges – she/her – @amelieleav]