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On the penultimate day of the Cannes Virtual Market, one of the hottest U.K. projects has dropped on the laps of buyers.
The star-laden period drama Mothering Sunday sees Oscar winners Olivia Colman and Colin Firth team with fast-rising stars Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country) and Odessa Young (Shirley, Assassination Nation). Eva Husson (Girls of the Sun) will direct from a script by Alice Birch (Succession), who recently adapted Sally Rooney’s Normal People for the BBC and Hulu to widespread acclaim.
Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley’s Number 9 Films (Carol, Colette, Youth) will produce the film, with financing from Film4 and Ingenious. The film has been developed with the support of Film4 and the BFI awarding National Lottery funding. It will shoot on location in the U.K. this fall.
Set in 1924 England, Mothering Sunday sees Jane Fairchild, a maid in the Niven household, take the day off to celebrate Mothering Sunday while Mr. and Mrs. Niven attend a lunch to celebrate the engagement of their neighbor’s only remaining son, Paul, to Emma Hobday. The Nivens have lost their own sons to the war and rejoice at the prospect of an engagement. Jane rejoices at her freedom on an unseasonably hot, beautiful spring day. But, she has no mother to go to.
For almost seven years she has – joyfully and without shame – been Paul’s lover. Like the Niven’s, Paul belongs to England’s old money aristocracy, whereas Jane was orphaned at birth. With the house conveniently empty, they can finally meet in Paul’s bedroom for the first time. Today will be their last as lovers. It is also the day that will mark the beginning of Jane’s transformation as the story unfolds through the hours of clandestine passion.
“It truly felt like the planets aligned when this wonderful screenplay, Mothering Sunday, somehow found its way to me,” said Husson. “Alice Birch seemed to whisper in my ear, and I felt everything I’d done so far prepared me for this specific story. It was a culmination of all that I am obsessed with in life: writing, sensuality, and pure cinema. I finished the script in tears, not from sadness, but because it cracked me open, like the most honest works do.”
Rocket Science is handling sales on the project.