Love Sarah review – Celia Imrie stars in warm-hearted Notting Hill drama

A pastry chef called Sarah is knocked off her bike and killed on the way to picking up keys for the bakery in Notting Hill that she’s always dreamed of opening. Afterwards, the three most important women in her life – her mum, best friend and daughter – decide to make a go of the business. They name it Love Sarah in her memory, but without her skills in the kitchen how can it succeed? “She trained at Ottolenghi!” one of them exclaims, jarringly – and this awkward feel is a bit of a problem for Eliza Schroeder’s likably warm-hearted London drama.

There’s nothing to fault in the performances, but the characters are filo pastry thin and slightly bland-tasting – like less complicated, less interesting versions of actual people. Celia Imrie is terrific as the dead woman’s mum: prickly, no-nonsense Mimi, who is feeling guilty about refusing to finance the bakery when Sarah was alive. Shelley Conn is best friend Isabella, with Shannon Tarbet playing Sarah’s twentysomething daughter Clarissa, a ballet dancer who seems adrift after losing her mum.

The film begins with a refreshing disregard for men, focusing on the female relationships. But then along comes dishy hard-living alpha chef Matthew (Rupert Penry-Jones) who inexplicably walks out of a job at Michelin-starred restaurant to work in their cutesy café.

Nothing about the situation is believable; it is like a Richard Curtis fantasy of London, where people are forever cycling in royal parks and live in cobbled mews. The tragiv road death, struggling cafe storyline and arrival of Fleabag’s crap dad (Bill Paterson) in the sitcommy role of an eccentric inventor invites comparisons to the Phoebe Waller-Bridge series, but Love Sarah feels behind the curve of TV. I couldn’t help thinking that if this was made for telly, Schroeder and her co-writers would have been pushed a bit a harder: a few gags wouldn’t have gone amiss.

• Love Sarah is released in cinemas on 10 July.