VOD film review: Love Sarah
James R | On 20, Sep 2020
Director: Eliza Schroeder
Cast: Celia Imrie, Rupert Penry-Jones, Shelley Conn, Shannon Tarbet
“There are four other bakeries within five minutes. What makes yours special?” That’s the question asked surprisingly early on in Love Sarah, a decidedly quaint tale of three women trying to make a success out of opening the umpteenth bakery in London’s Notting Hill. While the same question could be asked about the film itself, Eliza Schroeder’s comedy-drama whips up something tasty as well as tasteful.
The bakery is special to the women running it for a reason that’s made clear immediately: it’s named “Love Sarah” in honour of Mimi’s (Celia Imrie) daughter (played by Bake Off’s Candice Brown) who is killed while scouting out the place for her planned new café. Mimi decides to go ahead with the venture with Sarah’s best friend, Isabella (Shelley Conn), helped along by her wayward granddaughter, Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet).
To bake some treats that can beat the competition, though, you need a competition-winning chef. Enter Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones), a cook with a delectable delicatessen track record. He comes with a side order of romantic back-story with Sarah, and it’s no surprise that another connection may or may not be on the menu with Isabella. But if first-time screenwriter Jake Brunger serves up something with the feel of a fixed three courses, he does with a warmth that’s really quite charming.
It helps that the cast approach their roles with understated sincerity, from Celia Imrie’s fussy, feisty and quietly reflective mother to Tarbet’s believably lost ballet dancer who’s too busy getting high to get somewhere and doesn’t have a fatherly influence in her life. But the stars are Shelley Conn as the forthright Isabella, a talented chef in her own right, and Rupert Penry-Jones, who can play the part of an everyday hunk in his sleep. They cook up likeable chemistry, managing to avoid any cheese when they bond over working together in the kitchen.
The secret ingredient, though, is the decision of the cafe to start producing dishes that are loved by people who live in the area, from Japanese matcha treats to Polish confections. What begins as a sugary rom-com grows into a surprisingly sweet tale of inclusivity and diversity, and director Eliza Schroeder manages to keep things broad and accessible without becoming bland – a trickier order than you might expect – while still finding time to linger on the mouth-watering baking.
The result is a film that looks like it’s set in Richard Curtis’ Notting Hill, but populates it with an authentic sense of community that reflects what London is actually like.