Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Mare of Easttown (2021)


Kate Winslet's acting is first rate, although the cursing and promiscuity make it not a family show. It is realistic, though. The Delco accents are perfect. From Word on Fire:

Mare is wise and self-sacrificing, but she is no flawless heroine. Amid her combative relationship with her mother (played with great pathos and equally great comedic timing by Jean Smart), Mare buries her grief over the suicide of her son. She is also deeply, and perhaps unfairly, bitter toward her grandson’s mother, who is battling addiction. When Mare is off duty, she drinks one Rolling Rock after another, and she engages in an off-and-on fling with Richard, an itinerant writing professor, played by Guy Pierce. And Mare cannot stop herself from committing one particularly malicious act of sabotage.

Everyone in Mare’s life is deeply troubled, including her same-sex attracted daughter, Siobhan, who is talented and big-hearted but whose traumatic life experiences have left her as angry, rebellious, and broken as anyone. But when she departs for a college on the other side of the country, we have a reasonable hope that with God’s grace and some time away from Easttown, Siobhan may become a whole new creation someday.

The depiction of the Church in Mare of Easttown is refreshingly fair. In a time of continuing concerns about the history of sexual abuse cover-ups, viewers are rightly predisposed to suspicion toward the priest and deacon who are featured among the characters. But the show also assumes that most of the townspeople have at least some historic, positive connection to Catholicism, including Mare. Her cousin is the local pastor, who often visits for cocktails with Mare’s mother. (Practicing Catholic viewers, however, may find one or two details odd, including the highly unusual circumstance of a permanent deacon being depicted as a celibate man who lives in a rectory.) 

Pro-life threads run everywhere through Mare of Easttown. The preservation of the lives of young people, as well as justice for young lives lost, are among the show’s major themes. When a junkie dies, his end is met not with a shrug but with real regret and grief. There is a significant character with Down syndrome, as well as multiple unwed young mothers who have chosen to keep and raise their children, and receive support from their families and friends. At one point, a morally dubious character mentions how he unsuccessfully tried to pressure his girlfriend into an abortion. 

In the final episode, called “Sacrament,” the Church is the place where the whole community is gathered and encouraged with the words, “We’ve finally come out of a tunnel and arrived at the next level of healing.” In the homily, the close-knit town hears, “Our job is only to love,” which sounds at first like the ubiquitous pablum of cheap grace that undermines the hard road of the cross, until we take another look at Mare, whose name is significant. In one of the final scenes of the series, Mare holds a grief-stricken friend on the floor of her kitchen, posed similarly to Michelangelo’s Pietà. As a sort of mother to the whole town, Mare’s love bears the weight of others’ hurt—on top of her own. A sword has pierced her heart and graces flow through her wounds. (Read more.)

From No Film School:

Perhaps the most talked-about aspect of the show was how many diverse and interesting characters it brought to the forefront. Of course, Mare herself was deep and well-formed. We saw the trauma she carried and the pain as well. But her mother, daughter, ex-husband, and even daughter-in-law all had their own distinct stories. So did her friends and even the side characters. Each person could have been the star of their own show, and that's what made them all feel whole, and also what drew bona fide stars to round out the cast. How can you focus your character creation? Make sure the people you come up with are the stars of their own story threads. (Read more.)


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