Review: Small town misery is alive and dreary in 'Mare of Easttown'

Kate Winslet stars as a detective drowning in dysfunction

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

Mare is a mess.

Her son committed suicide. Her ex-husband lives next door with his soon-to-be new wife. Her grandson is showing signs of mental illness. Her live-in disagreeable mother is full of opinions.

Kate Winslet in "Mare of Easttown."

Oh, and she’s a police detective in a small northeastern town where a girl has been missing for a year, and she’s getting the blame.

As “Mare of Easttown” progresses, Mare (Kate Winslet) keeps getting more miserable. Which pretty much goes along with the perpetually rainy-gray city itself. Everybody in Easttown seems to be a trainwreck. Junkie kids, prostitute single mothers, garden variety drunks and lost souls. It’s no accident that the only baby in this show has a serious ear infection.

This pile-on of awfulness is supposed to deliver a gritty, lived-in, realistic drama. But after awhile — and not a long while — you start to wonder if anybody in this town has ever laughed. Or had reason to.

The bleak world of small towns past their prime and the dysfunctional lives of those who inhabit them is, of course, a standard setting of modern American crime stories. Jodie Foster found Buffalo Bill in one such town in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Lily Rabe recently endured a similar quaint hellscape in Amazon’s “Tell Me Your Secrets.” We’ve been here before but “Mare” absolutely wallows in hometown horrors.

Eventually Mare faces murder, kidnapping, custody threats and drunken vengeance. She takes on a bright young partner (Evan Peters), meets an unlikely beau (Guy Pearce) and bickers with her mother (Jean Smart; the sharp volleys between Winslet and Smart are wonderfully natural). The cast is as good as the characters are depressing.

Winslet elevates everything, but “Mare of Easttown” needs some serious elevating out of its dreariness and familiarity. It’s certainly watchable but also predictable. Look elsewhere for light.

'Mare of Easttown'


10 p.m. Sunday


Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.