Review by Joseph Fayed
Two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank has a body of work that could be considered underwhelming given all the acclaim she has received throughout her career. The Good Mother is her latest film, a thriller that not only flatlines story-wise, but also fails to utilize Swank in the capacity of her role. Her acting skills are held back by an unimpressive script and direction by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte.
Journalist Marissa Bennings (Swank) learns her estranged son has been murdered. To find out who killed her son, she must work with his pregnant girlfriend Paige (Olivia Cooke). As they enter a world surrounded by crime, they discover what they knew about their loved one only touched the surface.
None of the characters, including our protagonist Marissa, are well-rounded. This is largely due to a sequence of events involving flat characters that ultimately lead to nothing. Marissa herself has a history with Paige that isn't established beyond their initial physical confrontation. Marissa also has an investigative journalistic career that doesn't become a crucial plot device. Many thrillers have taken the same character arc of a journalist trying to stop seedy drug underbelly in their town. However, since Marissa spends so little time prying others for information and searching for clues, her being a journalist feels underdeveloped.
Our titular mother goes through the motions many parents with estranged children go through — deny everything they might have done wrong and blame others. Naturally, this is supposed to cause a conflict of interest given that her son was murdered for his part in the drug trade. That being said, there's little dedication to understanding Marissa's conflicting feelings about her son. A rare moment that serves as the exception to this takes place at a recovery meeting Marissa attend with Paige. Marissa hears another woman open up about loss, but her words of wisdom get sidetracked to go after one of the more obvious suspects in murder mystery thriller history. Marissa doesn't even get to have a moment of reflection once the dust has finally been settled, making it puzzling to see a journalist act as if a resolution to her son's murder can be brushed off.
The Good Mother isn't very good. Hilary Swank seemed bored in every scene and it's hard to blame her for looking that way. Weak film cliches on the drug trade and how it affects a family took over a script that has nothing interesting to say. Even the lead actors couldn't seem to emote at any of their losses into pain or the single twist into shock. I'm afraid Hilary Swank has been stuck in her flop era for a while, and perhaps she needs to work with better writer and directors if she wants a shot at a third Academy Award someday.
The Good Mother hits theaters on September 1.