When the eponymous Sarah unexpectedly passes away, her best friend and business partner Isabella (Shelley Conn) throws in the towel and backs out of their dream of running a bakery. But when Sarah’s daughter and estranged mother (Shannon Tarbet and Celia Imrie, respectively) re-enter her life, things are set right back in motion. With the Michelin-starred Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones) on board as head baker, the three women set out to realise Sarah’s dream, and come to terms with their own loss in the process.
Marketed as your standard feel-good British fare, Love Sarah features some lovely moments. Imrie, as always, is compelling and watchable as grandmother Mimi. Watching the character become less and less withdrawn from the world is one of Love Sarah’s true delights – delicious on screen confections aside, of course!
But there’s simply too many ideas here for a ninety-minute film, leaving Love Sarah a little under-baked (sorry, I couldn’t help it). The back story between Isabella, Matthew, and Sarah isn’t especially complicated, but there’s a lot of elements to it, and other than establishing her as well off and well-travelled, Mimi’s circus past (no, really), serves no purpose at all.
Similarly, the bakery builds its success by creating desserts that remind residents of multicultural London of home (wherever that may be), but it’s all covered so fast that it feels more like appropriation than celebration. It’s also not helped by an early throwaway joke about an Eastern European job applicant with an ankle monitor and a curfew.
Add that to the wacky inventor across the street, and a DNA test side plot, it all gets to be a bit too much.
Love Sarah feels like it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. There’s no shame in blending genres, of course, but there’s such a heavy lean into real life, that the quirkier elements feel, well, too quirky. The whimsy is there, but it’s out of place.
Fans of the likes of Notting Hill will find enough to enjoy here, with a couple of romances and a Portobello Road aesthetic that’s charming enough, but this particular dessert could use a little more filling.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Love Sarah is in cinemas from today.