Review: ‘The Good Mother’

Hilary Swank, Olivia Cooke, And Jack Reynor Star In An Entertaining Yet Unfocused Opioid Thriller

It’s no secret that the devastating effects of the opioid crisis have made their way into film and television. Numerous projects have been made depicting the many sides of the crisis, standouts include All the Beauty and the Bloodshed and Dopesick. Netflix’s Painkiller, which recently premiered, looks at the business practices behind Purdue Pharma and how they impacted everyday Americans.

In Miles Joris-Peyrafitte’s latest directorial effort, we see a different side of the opioid crisis. A crime-investigative thriller, The Good Mother looks at the aftermath of one son’s death and the dark, twisted forces that drove him there. 

Hilary Swank plays an Albany-based reporter and mother of two adult sons. The eldest Toby (Jack Reynor) is a police officer, living with his wife and trying for a baby. She is estranged from her youngest, Michael, whose addiction to opioids after a sports injury made it impossible to be around. 

When we meet Swank’s Marissa, we see her make her way into her news editor job late after waking up next to a bottle. Soon Toby visits her at work and gives her the news that Michael was shot in a drug deal gone wrong. 

If the truth was that simple Joris-Peyrafitte wouldn’t have a movie. After punching out her son’s recovering addict girlfriend, Paige (Olivia Cooke), and discovering she is pregnant, Marissa slowly resolves herself to team up with her and find Michael’s killer. 

Joris-Peyrafitte, who co-wrote the script with Madison Harrison, does a remarkable job playing with tension in The Good Mother’s first two-thirds. The script plays the groundwork for telling a gripping mystery about one dealing with grief and how one’s choices can be the blame for someone else’s. Marissa’s drinking problem is handled with a steady hand by both the writers and Swank’s performance. It’s not overexaggerated, but a part of the puzzle. 

As Marissa contemplates how her own issues played into Michael’s addiction, Paige plays full detective. Cooke revels in the murder mystery aspect of the script. Her scenes with Swank are a highlight of the film and what Harrison and Joris-Peyrafitte do with her character in the beginning of the third act is genuinely surprising. 

Jack Reynor does his best with the material he is given, playing down parts of his character that might give away the ending. Like his other performances of recent note, he is subtle in his approach to the character, making him both layered and believable. His scenes with both Swank and Cooke are compelling, like a game of emotional tennis. 

Joris-Peyrafitte loses focus in the film’s final third. An Al-Anon meeting that includes a powerful monologue from Karen Aldrige is completely wasted by the director. The core of the film, one about addiction and family, is spoiled by Joris-Peyrafitte’s need to nail the twists and turns of this thriller. By the time The Good Mother is over, not only are you left unsatisfied but disappointed by its potential.

The Good Mother is playing in theaters. Watch the trailer below.

'The Good Mother'
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
review-the-good-mother'The Good Mother' is an at times entertaining film that at times feels predictable and unfocused.