Tuesday, April 16, 2024

“THE GOOD MOTHER”

THE STORY – After the murder of her estranged son, a journalist forms an unlikely alliance with his pregnant girlfriend to track down those responsible. Together, they confront a world of drugs and corruption in the underbelly of a small city.

THE CAST – Hilary Swank, Olivia Cooke, Jack Reynor & Hopper Penn

THE TEAM – Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (Director) & Madison Harrison (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 89 Minutes


There are many advantages of setting a thriller in small-town communities. For starters, the artists at hand have the opportunity to explore how a horrible event affects a community of a lower population. Since there are fewer inhabitants compared to that of a busy urban environment, people know each other, perhaps a little too well. So, it seems like the crime affects everyone since they are more than just neighbors. Therefore, setting a thriller in a small-town community centered around one family has the opportunity to really explore the interpersonal relationships between family, community, and tragedy. This is one of the goals of “The Good Mother.”

Marissa (Hilary Swank) is a local journalist in Albany, NY, who discovers that her estranged son, Michael, has been killed. She’s struggling with an alcohol dependency (which has worsened since her husband’s death) and seems to be angry at the world overall. The audience quickly learns that Marissa’s late son, Michael, was a former addict in alleged recovery through his pregnant girlfriend, Paige (Olivia Cooke). But after a raid in Paige’s home, it appears Michael may have been killed over a deal gone wrong. Together, Marissa and Paige vow to figure out what exactly happened that night of Michael’s death.

What makes “The Good Mother” frustrating to watch is that the film has an equal amount of strong and weak elements. Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte plays tribute to his hometown of Albany, New York, wonderfully. It is apparent that the city is its own character within the film and is showcased effectively with captivating shots of the distinctive areas of the city, particularly the areas inhabited by blue-collar workers and those prone to drug-related violence. The film is covered in faded and muted colors to depict the history of the city but also how the drug wars are slowly killing small and rural American communities like Albany.

But within these strong images and themes is a weak screenplay further anchored by weak direction choices. The basic thriller story with strong actors like Swank and Cooke is attractive enough, but the direction and editing are inconsistent; at times, the audience is invested, but others are not engaged. The pacing overall is off, and some shots don’t fit the tone of the first act of the film, so it lowers the stakes. Some scenes with specific sequences are thought-provoking and intense, but others are not, and this lack of consistency draws the viewer out of the story and Marissa’s character journey.

Within a 90-minute film, there is a lot of plot: Marissa and Paige’s investigation, learning about the drug wars in Albany and showcasing how America’s drug epidemic affects one family in a small town. It’s a thriller, murder mystery, family drama, and character piece all wrapped up into one. It is a lot of story, and with a 90-minute runtime, not all of these themes are addressed as strongly as they should be to provide a compelling viewing experience, so much so that most of these plot points are half-baked and quickly moving from one to the other without complete resolution.

Swank has proven herself to be a phenomenal actor time and time again, so much so that she’s been awarded two Academy Awards, and she confirms her status once again in the film. Swank is fighting against a weak screenplay and, at times, poor direction but does have a natural talent and charisma to elevate her material and make Marissa an interesting protagonist, even though she is introverted and a broken woman consumed by grief and alcoholism. But Olivia Cooke is equally as great and is a phenomenal screen partner for Swank. Jack Reynor, as Marissa’s other son Toby, also provides an efficient performance.

“The Good Mother” has a decent amount of elements going for it, but too many factors go against it. The actors provide effective performances that engage the audience, and the filmmaking style sometimes showcases real talent in visual storytelling. However, these filmmaking elements are inconsistent, which results in the film feeling much longer than it is and makes it difficult for the audience to truly engage with the overall story as the film continues. “The Good Mother” starts to address interesting themes but never finishes the thought or makes a grand statement on any of its themes or topics, especially concerning character relationships. The result is that “The Good Mother” is okay and mostly gets the point across, but it could have been good, which may be the most infuriating element of the piece.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The lead actors, practically Swank and Cooke, provide genuine performances that are enriched in the upstate New York setting. The score is also effective in producing uneasiness.

THE BAD - Uneven direction and pacing issues result in a film that feels longer than it actually is. Too much plot happens in the short runtime.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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Lauren LaMagna
Lauren LaMagnahttps://nextbestpicture.com
Assistant arts editor at Daily Collegian. Film & TV copy editor.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The lead actors, practically Swank and Cooke, provide genuine performances that are enriched in the upstate New York setting. The score is also effective in producing uneasiness.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Uneven direction and pacing issues result in a film that feels longer than it actually is. Too much plot happens in the short runtime.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"THE GOOD MOTHER"