In Eva Husson’s Mothering Sunday, a single romantic afternoon resonates throughout one woman’s life. Set across several time periods, the drama movie shows how certain events have a way of defining our lives, for good and ill.
Odessa Young and Josh O’Connor lead the cast, as two lovers who enjoy a secret dalliance, the rest of the romance movie blossoming from their little rendezvous. Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, and Sope Disiru are among the supporting players, some naive to what’s going on, some all too aware. It all becomes part of the framing memoir of young’s Jane Fairchild.
While it skips up and down Jane’s life, Mothering Sunday provides a stirring portrait of a day when our lead characters felt truly open and alive. Eva Husson’s third feature-length production, it’s her most impressive and experimental, intertwining three timelines, all complemented by Morgan; Kibby’s beautiful score. We got to sit down with Husson to talk about putting the film together, the importance of the music in getting the tone right, and why nudity isn’t something we should be afraid of.
The Digital Fix: Mothering Sunday jumps around in time a fair bit in the story. I’m just wondering if you could tell me about how you kept that narrative clear for viewers?
Eva Husson: Did I? [Laughter] I’m glad you’re saying that. Well, I banged my head a lot against the wall, and then I laid flat on the editing room ground a lot. And then a lot of cards were swapped on the wall. It was a long process, and it was painful at times, a lot of times. One of the things that was very demanding of this film in the editing room is that usually, when you have a straightforward narrative that you did chronologically, you edit scenes, and along the way, you have your skeleton, and you can move forward, and you can watch small pieces and see that they work.
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On this one, to be able to know that that one, single minute piece worked, you had to watch the whole film, because you had to understand how it impacted you from before to learn how it worked there and afterwards. So I must have watched the film 200 times. And you know, I love the film, but after a while, I kind of wanted to kill myself. So I’m very happy that you’re saying it’s clear for the audience, because we landed as far as we’re like, ‘This is it’. You know, like, ‘We cannot make it better than this, and this is what the material has to offer us’.
I found that in moments of the movie where I felt I was a little unsure, the music provides the anchor emotionally – can you talk about collaborating with the composer?
So I met Morgan Kibby in a hallway, 20 years ago, I spotted her and I asked her if she was OK to audition for me as an actress. I was making a short film at the American Film Institute at the time, and we started working then. She transitioned into the music world and she was a performer, she was a singer, and she started becoming a composer. We kept working on my first feature film, my second film, and now this one, and I’m saying this because it plays a big role in the conversation. I actually love the music, I’m glad you really found it helpful, because it was a narrative tool for me.
To think of the film without the music was actually not possible for me because it had to not inform you, but it has to be part of the dialogue – it’s like a character in the film. And I think the richness of the conversation that Morgan and I have and the fact that we allow to that level, we allow each other to explore things even when they don’t work, which has been key to the final version of the film. She completed the music in the last three weeks, and the movie was not what it was two weeks prior, in the final stretch. It made it change immensely, thanks to her and I knew that it would.
The film contains full-frontal nudity – what was it like filming those scenes? Was there any hesitancy from the actors?
I just wanted it to be very natural. It was part of the preliminary conversations I had with Josh and Odessa where they had a very similar approach to nudity. I think we had a very common vision of how important it was for the narrative, and that it was not gratuitous, it was absolutely relevant to what it means to be a human being. We all go through emotions, we all have naked bodies, and we have to address that, we can’t keep it on under the carpet just because it’s hard to talk about so I hope it feels natural in the film because that’s how we approached it.
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Now that lockdowns have eased, I’m just wondering, what is your favourite cinema?
You know, one of my first jobs was as an usher in a cinema, and I just remember taking tickets, and watching a lot of movies there. That’s in the middle of Paris, so if anything it would be that cinema because I dreamed of making movies, going to that cinema.
Mothering Sunday is in theatres November 12.