Mare of Easttown is a seven-episode miniseries produced by HBO in 2021, written by Brad Ingelsby (The Way Back, 2020) and directed by Craig Zobel. It stands out from the mass of crime series and the like because the protagonist is the excellent Kate Winslet and there’s even Guy Pearce, but now that I’ve seen it (on the advice of more than one person that I trust about films and series) I can say that there are many other reasons to do it too.
The premise of Mare of Easttown (Mare is the name of the protagonist played by Kate Winslet) is nothing original. In the usual town where everyone knows each other (and many also have family ties), a girl is killed. Who did it? And why? And here you can already think of things like the first season of the British series Broadchurch (2013), or even Twin Peaks (1990-1991).
And you would be right in doing so! From the beginning, it’s easy to understand that everyone in Easttown (I mean everyone!!!) hides more or less terrible secrets, just like in the two series I mentioned above, and I’m sure in many others too. But if originality isn’t the strong point of Mare of Easttown, its dealing with uncomfortable themes such as depression and mourning is. Also, this is clearly the result of the vision of a single, good director who knew how to bring out the best from the cast. And I guess it wasn’t easy to have young actors and actresses deliver good performances in front of a the amazing Kate Winslet!
It would be useless to dwell too much on the plot, which is naturally very intricate. There are many characters, some there with the sole purpose of adding minutes to the series, and in addition to the murder which is the focus of the story there are also kidnappings, betrayals, revenges, drug stories, teenage loves… in short, a little bit of everything, so to confuse the viewer and to make the ending unpredictable.
I often say that I always prefer a film to a series: the film forces those who make it to tell a story in a short amount of time, while I find that most of the series are unnecessarily diluted and I have the feeling of losing time watching them. In this case it didn’t happen to me, but inevitably I thought about how much better a two-hour film would have been by cutting all the useless parts of the story told in seven hours by Ingelsby and Zobel (I’m thinking, among other things, of the character of Dominique Johnson, or the subplot of the love story of Mare’s daughter, Angourie Rice).
But leaving aside these superfluous considerations of mine (given the current popularity of series, I would say that today’s audiences are looking for products capable of accompanying them for many hours), what else can I say about Mare of Easttown? What struck me was the depth of the protagonist, a woman marked by a family tragedy of unimaginable proportions for those who didn’t experience it, who reacted as best she could together with her family, and made mistakes whose consequences are hard to delete. The absence of dialogue with loved ones, constructing a barrier to hide during mourning, taking refuge in external things in order not to experience inner feelings… these are all things that Mare of Easttown shows us without being too dramatic, yet in a very powerful way.
Instead, I was quite disappointed with the investigative/thriller part of the series. The first of the two major crimes is solved with an intervention from above (not credible at all – see the PS) which brings the solution into the hands of Mare and her colleague Zabel (Evan Peters). As for the second crime, I thought I had understood who was responsible already from the second episode, and I came very close to it, but the convoluted final explanation actually surprised me at least in part. A little too convoluted, I would say. In short, the series does a better job in building interesting and multifaceted characters than giving them interesting things to do.
In any case, I would recommend watching Mare of Easttown, especially if you like series (and this is relatively short). Ciao!
PS: a young prostitute miraculously escapes from a kidnapper by fighting tooth and nail… and she has the time and the clarity to take the license plate number of the van in which she was attacked? And she remembers it months later? They could have come out with something better, I think…
PPS: Great to hear Judas Priest (You’ve Got Another Thing Coming) in a key episode!