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Sunday, May 09, 2021

Mare of Easttown review: Kate Winslet delivers a magnificent performance in HBO murder mystery series

Kate Winslet's Mare of Easttown shares the trappings of many other productions of its genre. If you can get past the melancholy and conventional plot, though, the series is thoroughly engaging.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
Updated: April 22, 2021 8:26:13 am
Mare of EasttownIn India, Mare of Easttown is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Premium. (Photo: HBO)

Mare of Easttown cast: Kate Winslet, Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, Evan Peters, Guy Pearce
Mare of Easttown creator: Brad Ingelsby
Mare of Easttown rating: 4 stars

It is a truth universally acknowledged that dusty American towns are the most miserable places on earth. The environment is leeched out of all colour, the smiles are forced, emotions insincere and everybody is perpetually morose for some reason.

Or at least that is what Hollywood’s murder mysteries almost invariably tell us.

Written and created by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel Mare of Easttown is a new HBO miniseries set in a Pennsylvania town. The series is both a murder mystery and an intimate portrait of small town life through the eyes of Kate Winslet’s world-weary police detective called Mare Sheehan.

A no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners cop, Mare is tough and knows how to deal with difficult situations and unruly people. Her son died by suicide years ago and she cares for his toddler son as the mother is recovering from drug addiction in rehab. A divorcee, her ex-husband is getting engaged and to rub salt into the metaphorical wound, his new place is right behind hers. Our heroine is a pained one.

Mare’s town, the titular Easttown, is small enough to be an everybody-knows-everybody kind of place. It was shocked by the disappearance of a girl a year earlier. Now the girl’s mother, desperate for some sort of closure, speaks uncharitably about the laxity of law enforcement to the media. The case is reopened to Mare’s dismay who, having chased every lead, believes the girl will never be found.

Meanwhile, a teen mother is found dead with a gunshot wound to her head one morning. The night before, she was the victim of an assault by the jealous girlfriend of her ex and the father of her child. The whole thing is on video. An investigation is launched.

Mare is saddled with a county detective to assist her in the case that is suspected to be related to the disappearance a year before.

That’s the main plot. There are many threads in the series, but for the sake of keeping this review spoiler-free, this will suffice.

Mare of Easttown shares the trappings of many other productions of its genre. Like many small-town murder mysteries, it is drab, gloomy and and has a pervading greyish colour tone to convey the despondency as though the events unfolding right before the eyes of the viewer were somehow not enough. It can be too much at times.

If you can get past the melancholy and conventional plot, though, the series is thoroughly engaging. The story unfolds neatly over deliberately paced episodes. As mentioned earlier, the narrative consists of many intertwined threads, but the plot is mostly and surprisingly coherent.

Kate Winslet mare of easttown, Kate Winslet, mare of easttown Kate Winslet delivers an astoundingly good performance in Mare of Easttown. (Photo: HBO)

Kate Winslet is magnetic as Mare. The actor has shown herself to be not averse to take up difficult and unglamorous roles if they are challenging enough. And Mare is as challenging as it gets. The character is written with immense depth and care with complex motivations and traits. Winslet’s performance in the role does something rare: making Mare feel like a living, breathing person, and not merely a character in a story.

The rest of the cast is excellent as well, with Jean Smart, who was earlier seen in HBO’s own Watchmen, once again giving other actors a run for their money despite her limited screen-time.

Mare of Easttown is not for everyone. But for those who do not mind a dreary tone for some solid writing, character work, acting and a strong, granularly detailed sense of place in their murder mysteries, it is hard to go wrong with Mare of Easttown.

In India, Mare of Easttown is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.

 

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