The Good Mother (2023)

Movie Info

Movie Notes

A word of warning—you might want to see this indy film before reading further. Though it is far better than what some negative critics have made it out to be, it is as morally murky as any film that I have seen for a while. And it definitely is not a feel good movie, not with that ending that made me see the film’s title as soaked with irony.

Movie Info

Miles Joris-Peyrafitte
Run Time
1 hour and 30 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

The murderer rises at dusk to kill the poor and needy and in the night is like a thief.

Job 24:14
Marissa with the girlfriend of her dead son. (c) Vertical Entertainment

Marissa Jennings (Hilary Swank) is a reporter for the Albany TIMES UNION unable to write. She has suffered the loss of her husband and has been estranged from her son Michael (Madison Harrison), for a long time because of his addiction to a drug he had been using to manage the pain of an injury. He has moved from addiction to dealing, which has brought him into contact with dangerous, ruthless men. We figure out that the unnamed young man we saw running at night-time at the beginning of the film is Michael.

Marissa’ remaining son Toby (Reynor) is a local policeman with a young wife, Gina (Dilone). At her son Michael’s graveside service she spots Paige (Olivia Cooke), Michael’s girlfriend. She is standing some distance away, so Marissa walks over to her—and wallops her in the face. Paige’s first words to her are: “I’m pregnant!”

Marissa has been granted a leave by her kindly editor Jim (Norm Lewis), even when she tells him she would like to come back. The problem is she cannot bring herself to write anything. Thus, when Paige discovers among Michael’s belongings a suitcase with two large packets of drugs stashed among its clothing, she takes one package out and hides the suitcase beneath Marissa’s house, shows the one package to Marissa, and the two agree to work together to try to solve Michael’s murder. Son Toby has already written off his brother’s death as another drug deal gone bad, so there is no serious investigation.

The two women begin their search with an old friend of Michael’s, Ducky (Hopper Penn),who is also a dealer. You probably have already guessed that he will wind up dead. But, as Marissa grows closer to the younger Paige, whose baby soon will be born, you be assured Ducky is not the last.

Both Hillary Swank and Olivia Cooke give their all to their respective roles so that we come to care about these two women. The addictions of Michael and Bucky add a dimension to our understanding of the desolation and grief that has followed in the wake of the opioid epidemic. Michael has become one of those innocents turned into addicts by the careless use of drugs, and then, driven by his need for them, into addiction and all its attendant dangers.

In crime stories of the past, those solving the crime were attempting to set the world, unbalanced or tilted by the crime, back into balance. Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (who interestingly was born in Albany) and his co-writer Madison Harrison are not interested in balancing the world, but rather, in unbalancing the viewer. What Marissa eventually discovers as a mother is so powerful that it sends her back to her typewriter. She comes up with a story teasingly titled “Mother’s Milk, Brother’s Blood,” which her editor admires, but kindly hands back to her. Because of it personal implications, he tells her, she should reflect on it, and then, if she still desires, she can bring it back, and he will publish it. Later, alone, she does as advised as she gazes at her manuscript while lighting a cigarette. Oh yes, and did I forget, she now has a new-born baby for whom to provide care? Some “good” mother!

This review is in the Sept. issue of  VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.


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