Jack and Sarah (1995)
Genre: Dramedy, romance
Richard E. Grant can do neurotic better than almost any actor I know. And this film affords him ample opportunity to show this. But don’t think it’s a total downer as he also gets to display his comic timing and is backed up by some of the best talent Britain has today.
Jack (Richard E. Grant) and Sarah (Imogen Stubbs) are expecting their first baby. Uptight Jack is determined to get things right but often exasperates Sarah with his attention to minute detail and his tendency to overdramatize things (the Lamaze class scene where he works himself into a frenzy then demands an epidural is a hoot). When Sarah goes into labor, he trips down the stairs on his way to the car and ends up being the one unconscious in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
When he comes to, he discovers that Sarah has died during the delivery (it’s never specified but I’m thinking it was from a pulmonary embolism). He then begins his slid into the many stages of grief, practically wallowing in it, accompanied by William (Ian McKellen), a drunk who’s been living in a skip. For weeks, his parents (Judi Dench and David Swift) and Sarah’s mother (Eileen Atkins) deal with the new baby until finally determining that only tough love will drag him back from the brink. And in the nature of movies, leaving the baby with him for him to sink or swim does the trick.
As he gets back into the swing of life and bonds with little Sarah, the difficulties of being a single parent start to take their toll on him. Desperate after several nannies don’t work out, he impulsively hires a young American woman who seems to truly care for Sarah and not just see her as a job. Could love be in their future or will Amy (Samantha Mathis) go back to the rat bastard she left when Jack hired her?
To be honest, the romance part of this movie is not why I enjoy it as much as I do. It’s the relationship between Jack and his daughter, hell the relationship between Jack and his first wife, that I like. At first Jack seemingly falls into the stereotypes of a bumbling father – after little Sarah is left with him, he needs supplies for her and ends up dressing her in a napkin stuffed with cotton balls for a nappy, a sock for a hat and a large envelope mailer for a baby carrier.
But he quickly gets the hang of things and becomes a devoted dad. He even starts dating a little with a fellow partner (Cherie Lunghi) at his law firm. But it’s obvious that Amy will turn out to be the woman for him – for reasons I swear I can’t fathom beyond the fact that she’s good with little Sarah.
There are little moments sprinkled throughout the movie that sparkle. The instinctive need for the grandmothers to comfort crying baby Sarah when she’s first left with her father. The look on Jack’s mother-in-law’s face when she learns that Jack has named the baby Sarah. The moment when Jack finally confronts his grief, instead of just rolling around in it, as he cries in his father’s arms. The quiet dignity of William, before he reforms, when Jack initially refuses to let William take little Sarah for a walk. These actors do so much without seeming to break a sweat. As for Amy, I could take her or leave her and sincerely hope she studied the actors around her for some tips.
There are some schmaltzy moments to be endured on the way to the HEA but thankfully they are few. Queue it up and watch it for the quiet yet fabulously done acting from some superb British thespians.
FTC discloser – I bought this with my own money.