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Film Review: THE GOOD MOTHER (2023): Hilary Swank is Solid as a Journalist in a Thriller That Sometimes Lacks Conviction

Hilary Swank The Good Mother

The Good Mother Review

The Good Mother (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, written by Madison Harrison and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and starring Hilary Swank, Jack Reynor, Olivia Cooke, Hopper Penn, Karen Aldridge, Dilone, Frank Alfano, Larry Fessenden, Katie Lynn Johnson, Norm Lewis, Greg Schwartz and Laurent Rejto.

Hilary Swank is a two-time Academy Award winning actress but she takes a bit of a stumble in terms of her film selection process with her role in the ambitious, but somber new drama, The Good Mother. This movie had potential but sometimes fails to deliver on the most basic levels because of the fact that the movie becomes awfully conventional even when it is trying to break the mold as a bleak thriller. Despite some intriguing performances from Swank and some other cast members, The Good Mother doesn’t really stand out enough to warrant Swank’s involvement in the project.

Directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, and set in Albany, New York, Swank plays a widowed mother/journalist named Marissa who must try to learn to accept the death of her estranged young son, Michael. Jack Reynor portrays a cop named Toby, also Marissa’s son. Toby informs Marissa of Michael’s death but there is a lot of complexity surrounding why, exactly, Michael died. Drugs could have been involved but if it were that simple, there would be no plot. Olivia Cooke serves as Paige, Michael’s pregnant girlfriend who doesn’t get much respect from Marissa at the beginning of the film. In fact, Marissa responds rather violently to Paige at her son’s funeral. This is a cliched example of two characters who don’t get along at first who will undoubtedly learn to bond with one another as the movie progresses.

Hopper Penn adequately plays Ducky, a friend of Michael’s who wasn’t the most respectable guy in town. Toby suggests the possibility of Ducky’s involvement in Michael’s death, a plot device that drives some of the story line. The Good Mother creates a plausible story in terms of its basic premise but falls a little short in execution. That’s because the filmmakers throw in everything but the kitchen sink but don’t give themselves enough time to let all the pieces of the plot fall into place. Case in point: Karen Aldridge, an excellent actress, plays Laurie, who encounters Marissa at a support group. Laurie gives a heartfelt speech about the loss of her daughter and Laurie sort of cares about her and gives her a ride but ultimately Laurie just exists in the movie to drive home points the filmmaker is trying to make about the human condition that are moving but aren’t what The Good Mother essentially is as a film. It’s ultimately a conventional picture that’s laid low by its own lofty ambitions.

This movie is a thriller above all else but because of the journalistic plot threads, a major story Marissa tries to develop is at the heart of the movie. It takes a lot of patience on the viewer to get through the slumps of the film to get to that point because things happen that should have not occurred if the characters had more common sense. The characters are written more or less to serve the mechanics of the plot.

Swank is excellent, however, and Cooke more than holds her own beside her. Swank plays an alcoholic mom who has suffered tremendous loss in her life. Swank portrays her with genuine artistic integrity. It’s not Swank’s fault that the story gets to be more complex than it had to be. The movie centers on the fact that Marissa ultimately finds out that everything is not black and white in reality and that family is much more difficult to understand than expected. Marissa’s dead son wasn’t raised to get into the situation he found himself involved in but he nevertheless seems to have suffered a fate that was overwhelming in its excesses. Cooke adds the requisite edge to her character that makes the actress acquit herself admirably in her juicy role.

The Good Mother tries too hard to tackle many different subjects. It’s dark and tragic and there’s too many plot lines and too little going on in terms of character development at the same time. There are some stylish visuals and the movie takes some big risks at the end by not concluding in a conventional way. It’s easy to see why Swank was attracted to the project but had she had the foresight to see that the script had too many contrivances within the plot, she may have steered herself away from the material at hand. But, she didn’t and the result is a movie that has some pluses but is ultimately undermined by its lofty ambitions.

Rating: 5.5/10

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