Length: 7 x episodes (57-60 mins each)
Kate Winslet has been in our collective lives since 1994 when she starred opposite Melanie Lynskey in Peter Jackson’s criminally underrated Heavenly Creatures. Of course, she hit the really big time in 1997 when Leo painted her like one of his French girls in Titanic.
Since then, Winslet has been a fixture of feature films, but it feels like she hasn’t had a really memorable, iconic role since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) or The Reader (2008).
Mare of Easttown is here to correct that omission, albeit on the telly rather than the silver screen, and the result is probably going to end up being your next murder mystery obsession.
Mare of Easttown tells the tale of rundown copper, Detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet), who works in a small Pennsylvania town and tries to keep her stuff together.
She’s failing at this goal pretty damn badly.
Mare drinks too much, is brusque and downright rude at times, has a strained relationship with her ex-husband Frank (David Denman), a downright combative one with her daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) and the less said about her love life the better.
She has reasons for these personality quirks, mind you. Tragic loss and complicated circumstances have plagued Mare’s life, but she’s still a jagged little pill at times.
Things get significantly worse after the tragic murder of teenage single mum Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny) and Mare must battle her own self-destructive impulses to help find the killer and stop them before they strike again.
First and foremost, Mare of Easttown is a vehicle for Kate Winslet’s excellence. She’s front of stage and earns every second she’s on screen. Mare is a fascinating, albeit frustrating, character who can’t get out of her own way at times.
She’s backed by a superb support cast, with Evan Peters playing fresh-faced Detective Colin Zabel very convincingly and the always-welcome Guy Pearce giving mildly successful writer Richard Ryan real depth and pathos.
Another Aussie, Angourie Rice, is also a scene-stealer, bringing a lot of heart to Mare’s teenage daughter, Siobhan. This one’s going to be a star, mark our words.
The only bum note, and it’s a small one, is the occasional moment where the show feels just a bit too grim and dour for its own good. If you’re like us, you might have a twinge that it’s laying it on a tad too thick.
See, when you’re watching Kate Winslet, a famous English actress, and Guy Pearce, a famous Aussie actor - both of whom, in all likelihood, have a quid or two socked away - pretending to be poor, working-class Americans wallowing in near poverty it does at times feel a little like class tourism.
Still, this will likely be a passing fancy, because when the mystery really gets going after a slow first couple of episodes, it becomes deadset riveting.
Like HBO’s other recent murder mystery, the excellent Perry Mason reboot, Mare of Easttown is a tragedy told in small, exquisite slabs of quality drama. The acting is topnotch, the direction from Craig Zobel superb and the story nuanced and haunting.
It’s not always a cheery good time, mind you, but if you’re up for a confronting, understated drama fronted by a superstar then Mare of Easttown might just be the person and destination for you.
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