Given the rampant popularity of The Great British Bake Off, it’s perhaps a surprise that British cinema hasn’t more thoroughly embraced the value of food porn. Filmmaker Eliza Schroeder, however, has dived into that world headfirst with Love Sarah — a charmingly romanticised note of affection for London and, specifically, for the delicate joy of exquisite cakes. You can’t say lovelier than that.
The Sarah of the title — played by 2016 Bake Off winner Candice Brown — is opening a boutique bakery with her business-minded buddy Isabella (Shelley Conn). She’s involved in a fatal bicycle accident, leaving Isabella with an expensive bit of London real estate and few baking skills of her own. In the wake of the tragedy, Sarah’s bereaved daughter Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet), having been dumped by her boyfriend, reconnects with her estranged grandmother Mimi (Celia Imrie). Mimi had been hoping to reach out to her daughter and, by bonding with Clarissa, aims to make up for lost time.
Imrie’s performance is a delight, exuding the energy of an angry nan who hasn’t had a nap this afternoon. Her mildly aggressive chemistry with Tarbet is immediately appealing and so it’s little surprise when the three women join forces to run the bakery with the help of an exceptionally dashing culinary genius (Rupert Penry-Jones), who seems to have a personal connection with Isabella. He’s dismissed as “a pretentious womaniser”, but seems to have a more tender side. They’re soon pouring chocolate mirror glazes on to gorgeous-looking sponges like the most satisfying M&S advert ever produced.
Away from the food porn, the movie is a fairly twee and slight artefact, but one that’s helmed with real affection by Schroeder. It’s a joy to spend time with these characters as they share delightfully crisp banter and deal in admirable bouts of cringe comedy. Imrie gets some of the best of these as she shares an odd flirtation with an oddball neighbour of the bakery, played by Bill Paterson, who becomes a regular customer.
Love Sarah exists in a sort of candy-coloured fantasia of London at its most welcoming and cosmopolitan. It’s not real, necessarily, but it’s a pleasant change from the dark, gritty capital usually depicted in British cinema. In the midst of lockdown, with the streets of London largely empty for months, what might once have seemed like a whitewashing of the city’s flaws now looks like a warm, nostalgic journey through what makes Britain great. It’s the Paddington approach — and you can’t go far wrong with that.
This movie is affectionate to a fault and throws likeable characters at the audience, along with shot after shot of beautiful bakes. The result is a delicious confection that’s every bit as sweet as a lovingly crafted cupcake.
Dir: Eliza Schroeder
Scr: Jake Brunger
Cast: Celia Imrie, Shannon Tarbet, Shelley Conn, Rupert Penry-Jones, Bill Paterson, Candice Brown, Denise Welch
Prd: Rajita Shah
DOP: Aaron Reid
Music: Enis Rotthoff
Run time: 97 mins
Love Sarah is in UK cinemas from 10th July.