Kate Winslet is 45 and a mother of three. One of her three kids is a baby. So her decision to play a youngish grandmother in Mare of Easttown might come across as unusual. Despite best efforts to break free from the image of a gorgeous English beauty, Rose in Titanic still looms large over her cinematic visage (as does for Leo Di Caprio, her co-star. The man had to chew on raw liver to finally get an Oscar award with his role The Revenant).
But with Mare of Easttown, she might have made a mark on a generation that scarcely remembers her best work. Mare is a committed police detective, a grieving and conflicted mother, and an accidental grandma. She doesn’t gloss up on her looks or her reality in this series. A scene where she has to quickly dress up for a date night shows Mare rummaging through a messy, full make-up drawer populated with broken eye pencils, half open lipsticks and Lego pieces. This fleeting scene resonated with me for quite some time. Rarely has anyone shown the rushed lived experience of those that handle young kids and toddlers with such precision to detail. Mare is as real as they come.
Another significant achievement of this series is its understated authenticity. Not one moment in Mare of Easttown is hyped or over the top. In fact, Easttown is as inconsequential and unremarkable as any American small town that could easily fall off the map. In this realm, the series sets itself in a setting that British television has refined and mastered with Broadchurch, Happy Valley and Shetland. Dreadful crimes can take place in most ‘normal’ places, and seemingly regular people can have a dark side that can devastate lives. But Easttown does more than just solve a crime. It tells a story of a woman who has rarely spoken how she feels; or has rarely been asked about her emotional state. It’s a perfect drama about imperfect people. And it’s about the role friendship plays in shaping one’s choices.
Mare of Easttown also addresses a subject often brushed under the carpet by showbiz – parents of children with developmental disorders. It can get out of hand, managing social and emotional disorders in young kids. Mare and her fractured parenting experience are living proof of this.
When we watch a series about an event of significance; or about cityscapes and geographies with great reach and population, some amount of drama naturally comes into place. Writing and creating a series, building a world in a sleepy, small town where nothing much ever happens, is a different ball game. This requires attention to detail on every character, big and small. Quirky and believable, Mare of Easttown builds the town’s residents with credibility, underlining challenges that America faces regularly (drug addiction, online prostitution, wayward youth, unemployment).
Winslet had shunned beautification of any kind to play this true to life character with conviction. Saying anything more will give out spoilers. Suffice it to say that Brad Ingelsby, the show runner, has set up roots in HBO, the network behind the best of prestige TV. His stories resonate without fuss. Hopefully, there will be more from him and Winslet coming our way.