It may have been only a matter of time: as elaborate confectionery continues to dominate Instagram and cupcake shops sprout like mushrooms in trendy neighborhoods, someone was bound to recognize the potential of setting a romantic drama within an artisanal bakery. After all, sweets and romance are a winning combination as Lasse Hallström succinctly proved in his deliciously charming Chocolat (2000), and the potential for personal growth among trials, tribulations and handsome hunks could be irresistible – to say nothing of the cakes!
And indeed, director Eliza Schroeder does exactly that with her feature film debut Love Sarah, acelebration of female camaraderie and the joys of baking that seesthree generations of women coming together to transform a decrepit storefront in Notting Hill (where else!) into a successful bakery while coping with grief and loss. And although Love Sarah lacks depth, it can be the right comfort flick after a stressful day.
When the titular Sarah passes away right before opening an artisanal bakery with her best friend, Isabella (Shelley Conn), it looks like her dream of running her own small business will die with her – until Isabella, ready to cut her losses, receives unexpected support from Sarah’s daughter, Clarissa, (Shannon Tarbet), a twentysomething dancer resolved to realize her mother’s dream. Financial backing is secured from Clarissa’s estranged grandmother, the formidable Mimi (Celia Imrie), who quickly forms a bond with the enthusiastic Clarissa and business savvy Isabella – but they still lack a professional baker. Fortunately, Sarah’s long-lost ex-boyfriend, the alluring Michelin-starred pastry chef Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones) presents himself out of the blue, eager to fulfill Sarah’s vision.
While the struggling business and sense of loss provides ample drama, Love Sarah’s focus remains resolutely on the food: the ornate pastries are visually succulent and prepared in meticulous detail, excellently channeling the anticipation of waiting next to the oven. Renowned Israeli-English chef Yotam Ottolenghi supplied the delicacies, and they steal the show.
The Icing Cometh
The acting is capable across the board, with Celia Imrie in particular shining as a level-headed matriarch, but Jack Brunger’s script does not do the cast any favors: motivations remain vague, relationships are half-baked, and subplots resolve abruptly. Mimi is initially at odds with Isabella and Clarissa, but without any readily apparent reason. Not that it matters – once the three begin working together, everyone gets along smoothly. Significant bonds however, remain elusive – in Love Sarah, the characters are more invested in getting a glowing review in Time Out than finding out whether Matthew is, in fact, Clarissa’s father.
The film reaches its apex when Mimi has the epiphany of catering to their multicultural clientele, offering baklava and Strudel instead of pretentious French confectionery. Eager to provide a “home away from home,” the characters gain a new sense of purpose, social awareness and business acumen – albeit just for ten minutes.
Love Sarah has its heart in the right place and spreads decent messages aplenty – stop harboring division, inclusion is healing and the joy of creating a place to belong. Regrettably, it praises the importance of sticking together without actually showing the complexities of interconnectedness.
Too bland for those looking for the kind of engaging British family drama that Mike Leigh or Ken Loach excel at, Love Sarah is like the confectionary sold by its protagonists – quaint and easily digestible, a feel-good film you can take your children and grandma to – just remember to brush your teeth afterwards.
Starts Sep 11, votivkino. 9., Währinger Straße 12. votivkino.at