Welcome to Easttown, Pennsylvania. A dreary excuse for a town and the epicenter of the world’s misery and heartache, if this limited series is to be believed.

Detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) hasn’t had the best life. She’s divorced, lives with her bickering mother and teenage daughter, and is trying to raise her grandson after the tragic death of her own boy. On top of that she’s being targeted for not being able to solve the disappearance of a teenage girl a year prior. Things aren’t particularly looking up for Mare and they’re about to go south even further when another young girl turns up murdered.

While ‘Mare of Easttown’ is definitely an ensemble piece, how could it not be with such an extensive and excellent cast, this is beyond a doubt “the big Kate Winslet show”. She is flanked by greats such as Jean Smart, Guy Pearce and Evan Peters, but it’s definitely Winslet who makes Mare her own. She inhabits the character like no other and evokes sympathy for her gruff manner of handling things.

This is of course helped by the screenplay, and boy is it dense. There isn’t a family or friend in this community that doesn’t have some lurid secret or a few skeletons tucked away in their closet. At times it feels overwritten, almost as if a few red herrings weren’t enough and they released a whole school of them on the plot. It’s a lot to take in. The fact remains however that the plot is so meticulously mapped out that you gladly go along for the ride. 

Director Craig Zobel (The Hunt) has a workmanship-like style to his direction — no frills. Thankfully, that fits the bleak setting of this procedural like a glove. Interwoven into this tight whodunnit and all of the domestic drama is an excellent sense of pitch-black humor. Whenever things get too grim, you can be sure there’ll be a laugh around the corner to lighten the spirits for a second.

Mare of Easttown’ might get a little too twisty for its own good, but you’re in expert hands with Winslet guiding you through this intriguing maze of misery.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – Mare of Easttown

Reviewed online, June 4, 2021. Rating: MA15+. Running time: 7 x 60 min.

PRODUCTION: A Home Box Office (HBO) release of a Home Box Office (HBO), Mayhem Pictures, wiip studios production. Producer: Karen Wacker. Executive producers: Gordon Gray, Brad Ingelsby, Paul Lee, Gavin O’Connor, Mark Roybal, Kate Winslet, Craig Zobel.

CREW: Director: Craig Zobel. Writer: Brad Ingelsby. Cinematography: Ben Richardson. Editing: Amy E. Duddleston, Naomi Sunrise Filoramo. Music: Lele Marchitelli.

CAST: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, John Douglas Thompson, Joe Tippett, Cameron Mann, Jack Mulhern, Izzy King, Justin Hurtt-Dunkley.

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