Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank fritters away her time in the routine crime thriller The Good Mother, playing Marissa Bennings, a heavy-drinking, chain-smoking, disaster-prone journalist with writer’s block who has given up sensational investigative reporting for an unsatisfactory position at the Albany Times-Union as an editor. She has two grown sons. One is a handsome, good-citizen cop named Toby (charismatic Jack Reynor). The other is a junkie and a thief named Michael who hooks half of the kids in Albany on fentanyl. When Michael is murdered, the devastated Marissa reluctantly joins forces with Michael’s pregnant girlfriend Paige (Olivia Cook) to find his killer.
THE GOOD MOTHER ★★1/2 (2.5/4 stars)
In the harrowing journey that follows, they conduct the viewer on a sordid tour of Albany’s decadent underworld crack dens and needle dispensaries. They also attend meetings of a survivors’ group, listening to stories of other mourners with their own tragic losses. The more Marissa sees and experiences about the Albany she never knew, the more she’s inspired to return to her writing career and the exposé she plans to reveal, much to the disapproving chagrin of her law-abiding cop son Toby, who may not be as innocent about his brother’s murder as he seems, and Toby’s wife, who might know more than she’s willing to share. One gruesome thing after another happens to everyone involved, and as the bodies pile up, Marissa realizes that if she publishes the truth about what she learns about her bad son, it could destroy the good son (and the only family she has left). To go further would amount to spoilers that would ruin the movie. I’ll just say that the point of the dilemma Marissa faces is the painful realization that to be a good mother is not the same thing as being a good citizen.
It’s not a particularly interesting narrative, and the episodic script and sluggish direction by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte don’t help. On the plus side, Hilary Swank is as intensely committed as usual (she’s also one of the film’s producers), but The Good Mother is not a film that offers her much of a stretch. Not a bad film, just a dull and inconsequential one. here today and gone tomorrow.
Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.