Love Sarah is comfort food for movie buffs. Over the past year, I find myself craving sugar. Not real sugar, mind you, but cinematic sweets: escapism. Despite the endless cavalcade of Trump-era films, COVID docs, and hard-hitting movies that “matter,” I just want movies that afford a semblance of normal life as I knew it. Films like Pretend It’s a City, for example, slaked by thirst for cocktails and convos with friends. Hamilton gave me a night at the theatre. And Love Sarah affords the wonderful sensation of stepping into a bakery for a taste of the city. More satisfying, though, is the film’s warm portrait of the role that small local businesses play in providing food for the soul. Love Sarah is a nourishing delight that satisfies all the cravings while reminding one of the comforts of city life.
The film’s sense of closure is by design. The titular Sarah (Candice Brown) is en route to see her new bakery. Her business partner Isabella (Shelley Conn) impatiently awaits at the newly leased location. Sarah dies in transit, though, leaving a gap in the lives of three women: her daughter, Clarissa aka Larry (Shannon Tarbet); her mum, Mimi (Celia Imrie); and Isabella. The three women find themselves alone, afraid, and disconnected. Their grief for life with Sarah, however, inspires them to live the dream she left behind.
Cue yet another high-end bakery that London probably doesn’t need. Their sweet shop, named Love Sarah in homage to their inspiration, sits empty despite the Micheline-grade confections that their hunky new chef, Alex (Max Parker) whips up, like rose macaron cakes, orange mousse bombs, and goodies with utterly unpronounceable names. However, Mimi keenly senses that foreign languages are the key to connecting with customers in the diverse neighbourhood.
A World of Flavours
Love Sarah somewhat predictably follows the reliable food-on-film trope of celebrating the fusion of flavours in urban life. As Mimi observes the complex multicultural make-up of their shop’s neighbourhood, she concludes that it’s better for Love Sarah to create pastries that seem foreign to the staff but familiar to customers. Each baked good can be more than just a sweet treat: it’s a taste of home.
The film celebrates the diverse multiculturalism that is the spice of life in major metropolises. Unsurprisingly, the script by Jake Brunger takes its side in a Brexit-divided London. Love Sarah is an oasis where every Londoner is welcome regardless of whether they were born in the city. The cultural encounters don’t necessarily transcend matcha cakes Latvian goodies, but the message is clear and wholesome.
Imrie Is Warm-Hearted Delight
Imrie, best known for her work in the Exotic Marigold Hotel films, is a welcome fit in the lead role. This is one of those lovely turns that character actors relish when they’re given the chance to shine. (When Mimi revisits her days on the trapeze, Imrie displays some surprising acrobatics.) Frigid and brittle when the film begins, and sweet and bubbly by the end, Imrie plays Mimi like savoury puff pastry that rises with the aid of cold butter. Love Sarah might be just the ticket for the Marigold palettes with its warm, fun, and age-forward tale. The film refreshingly follows a multigenerational recipe, though, by coupling Imrie with Tarbet, proving that fine wine always pairs nicely with dessert.
Director Eliza Schroeder, making her feature debut, certainly knows how to film the goods. Love Sarah has a delectable array of scrumptiously-shot goodies that highlight the unique flavours and textures of the diverse menu. Cinematography Aaron Reid offers mouth-watering views of the pastries, but the film avoids food porn gratuitousness thanks to the goodies’ symbolic significance. Sugar doesn’t mean a treat lacks substance.