Martin Carr reviews the HBO limited series Mare of Easttown…
There is an authenticity to this HBO limited series which gets under your skin. Small town mentalities are meticulously deconstructed, prejudices uncovered and long term relationships explored. Writer Brad Ingelsby has created a murder mystery which delves into deeper issues, taps into universal truths and does so by connecting with character.
Kate Winslet does a majority of the heavy lifting as Mare Sheehan. There is a lived in quality to her which comes from the accumulation of relationships, built up over many years. Her work as a detective in Easttown, Pennsylvania is both helped and hindered by the fact. This show takes its time introducing personalities that share a connection, grounding the reality and enhancing any drama that follows.
Every encounter feels familiar laced with an intimate knowledge of the people and places. Dirty laundry gets aired in public, private friendships clash with professional interests and slowly it begins unravelling. Over seven episodes the sub-plots and narrative segues get more tangled, mixing dry humour into tangible life histories. Murderous intent, blinkered retribution and a fragile romance are also effortlessly built in. As the story unfolds minor character contributions begin to resonant, create ripples and disrupt events further down the road. Brad Ingelsby etches these small communities with limitless compassion, yet never offers an easy out.
Amongst the ensemble, stand outs include Jean Smart as Mare’s mother Helen and David Denman as her ex-husband Frank. Each stand their ground opposite and prove more than a match for Winslet in every scene. Elsewhere Guy Pearce proves the only safe port in a storm, as Richard Ryan an erstwhile love interest. His scenes opposite Kate Winslet possess a subtle chemistry, as Richard represents a rest bite from community pressures. Evan Peters also works well opposite our curmudgeonly protagonist, extracting a modicum of humility from beneath the Teflon coating.
Beyond those fleeting moments Mare proves to be her own worst enemy. There is so much guilt and suppressed trauma built up inside this character, that at times the need to vent feels tangible. Everyone in her life lives under a cloud of perpetual suspicion, as she is incapable of switching off. Inherent contradictions brought out through the performance, paint her as neither a bastion of mortality nor atypical authority figure. Instead, Kate Winslet takes the road less travelled by conveying some very human frailties.
It is this grey area that will ultimately endear Mare Sheehan to television audiences. Life is made up the choices we make for good or bad. What Mare of Easttown explores in no small way, beyond the backlash of murder in a small community, is how people live their lives by those choices. With the aid of an excellent ensemble cast, Kate Winslet inhabits Mare Sheehan and invites viewers to share her journey.
Mare of Easttown exclusive to Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOWTV from April 19th.