The Good Mother Review: A Dark Descent into Motherly Vengeance

In the shadowy underbelly of crime and deceit, The Good Mother, directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, endeavors to captivate its audience with a tale of maternal anguish, unexpected alliances, and a quest for justice that takes a haunting twist. Set in the gritty city of Albany, the film navigates the seedy world of narcotics and treachery, all while exploring the complex dynamics of motherhood and the lengths one would go to avenge a loved one’s murder. The film promises an intricate blend of suspense and emotion, but as the credits roll, it becomes evident that while The Good Mother aspires to deliver a gripping narrative, it struggles to rise above genre conventions, leaving audiences with a mixed aftertaste of missed opportunities and notable performances.

The film’s premise revolves around the brutal murder of Marissa Bennings’ estranged son, catapulting her into a whirlpool of despair and rage. Hillary Swank‘s portrayal of Marissa is commendable, as she oscillates between a grieving mother consumed by sorrow and a determined journalist with a fierce appetite for the truth. Swank masterfully conveys Marissa’s transformation, her eyes ablaze with conviction as she unearths the darkest corners of her son’s life. Unfortunately, the character’s emotional journey is occasionally hindered by a screenplay that falters in developing her motivations cohesively. While Marissa’s thirst for vengeance is palpable, the film struggles to strike the right balance between her grieving process and her sudden transformation into a relentless investigator.

The Good:

Hilary Swank in The Good Mother (2023).

Olivia Cooke, in the role of Paige, the pregnant girlfriend of Marissa’s late son, delivers a standout performance that adds depth and vulnerability to the narrative. Cooke’s ability to convey Paige’s vulnerability and her gradual evolution into a key ally of Marissa is a highlight of the film. The chemistry between Swank and Cooke is palpable, giving life to their unlikely alliance in the midst of a high-stakes investigation. Their dynamic becomes the emotional core of the movie, and their interactions serve as a welcome respite from the film’s otherwise gloomy atmosphere.

The cinematography by Charlotte Hornsby effectively captures the gritty essence of Albany’s urban landscape, creating a sense of unease that permeates the entire film. The use of dim lighting and desaturated color tones serves as a visual representation of the moral ambiguity and moral decay that Marissa and Paige find themselves entangled in. The city becomes a character in itself, embodying the darkness that mirrors the characters’ journeys.

The Bad:

Olivia Cooke and Hilary Swank in The Good Mother (2023).

However, where The Good Mother falters is in its narrative execution. While the premise holds promise, the plot often feels formulaic and predictable, adhering to well-worn tropes of the revenge thriller genre. The story takes a detour into a world of narcotics and dishonesty, but the exploration of this criminal underbelly lacks the depth and originality needed to distinguish it from similar narratives. As Marissa and Paige delve deeper into the underbelly of Albany, the revelations they uncover feel convenient rather than genuinely shocking, diluting the impact of the story’s climax.

Furthermore, the film struggles with pacing issues, particularly in its second act. Scenes that are meant to build tension sometimes drag on, leading to moments of disengagement. The urgency that should accompany a desperate search for justice is often lost in the meandering pace of certain sequences, which ultimately diminishes the overall impact of the narrative.

Jack Reynor‘s performance adds an element of unpredictability to the story, yet the character remains underdeveloped, leaving his motivations and loyalties shrouded in mystery without sufficient resolution. This lack of clarity hampers the emotional investment in his character and contributes to the narrative’s overall unevenness.

In its attempt to blend maternal anguish with a gritty revenge narrative, The Good Mother struggles to find a cohesive identity. The film does deliver moments of intensity and emotion, propelled by strong performances from its lead actresses. Yet, these moments are often overshadowed by the film’s inability to transcend genre clichés and carve a distinct narrative path.


The Good Mother presents a compelling premise and benefits from the powerful performances of Hilary Swank and Olivia Cooke. The exploration of maternal grief and the bond formed between Marissa and Paige is a poignant highlight. However, the film falls short in its execution of the revenge thriller elements, leaning too heavily on genre conventions and failing to deliver a narrative that truly captivates. While it succeeds in showcasing the raw emotions of its characters, it struggles to provide a satisfyingly original or deeply resonant cinematic experience. Despite its potential, The Good Mother ultimately leaves audiences wanting more – not out of intrigue, but out of a desire for a more inventive and finely-tuned narrative.

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The Good Mother Review: A Dark Descent into Motherly Vengeance
  • Acting - 7/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 4/10
  • Setting/Theme - 4/10
  • Watchability - 6.5/10
  • Rewatchability - 5/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.