“All mothers struggle, money hides it.” This line uttered simply but powerfully by the lovely Kerry Washington in the Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere is indicative of things to come. Based on the bestselling book by Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere premiered on Hulu on March 18. It was later made available in India on Disney+Hotstar. Developed by Liz Tigelaar, the show features Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington in the lead roles. The two stars have also executive-produced the miniseries.
What lies beneath?
Within the first five minutes of the pilot, you realise that although the makers have presented Little Fires Everywhere so simply, the plot is anything but. It is this simmering tension, the undercurrent of a storm waiting to burst forth, that makes the show stand out. It doesn’t say, “Hey, come, look at me, I am a thriller,” nor does it claim to be a show about what motherhood should be. It does not preach from the pulpit of greatness, but instead goes to show that our all-sacrificing mothers are also humans. That they are not perfect and should be allowed to make their share of mistakes. That we neither need to excessively celebrate them or even degrade them for their every misstep. What is more important here is empathy and understanding.
Elena Richardson (a captivating Reese Witherspoon) is a mother of four and a journalist who at first look seems to be managing her professional and personal life extremely well. However, things begin to unravel when Kerry Washington’s Mia Warren moves into Elena’s neighbourhood as her tenant. Mia too has a teenage daughter who she is bringing up on her own. Soon, we see the women attempting to foster a bond, but Mia is hiding some things, even from her own child. What are those things and how does that affect Elena and her family in due course of time forms the crux of Little Fires Everywhere.
Both Kerry and Reese are terrific in their role of mothers who, despite seeming self-sufficient and strong, are often seen failing, not just as mothers, but as humans. It is this aspect of their characters that is all-absorbing. Reese especially as the learned, white rich lady who doesn’t understand her privilege shines brightest. Her relationship with her youngest child is equally dazzling in all its shades of black and white. There is a sequence towards the end of the series in which Reese claims she never wanted to have her youngest daughter in the first place; her face contorted in part fury and part shame is something to behold.
Kerry Washington’s Mia is the silent, intelligent woman who is not afraid of taking a stand for the people she cares. But she also has her own share of skeletons in the closet which is hinted at throughout the run of the show. Kerry manages to balance this dual and somewhat opposing parts of Mia’s personality well.
The child actors are well-casted, and so are other supporting actors who hold the show together with their credible acts.
Also starring Joshua Jackson in a significant part, Little Fires Everywhere is streaming on Disney+Hotstar.
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