What the 'Mare of Easttown' teaches us about motherhood

Kate Winslet's turn as an 'imperfect' mother is a lesson for many of us


Anamika Chatterjee

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Published: Thu 24 Jun 2021, 5:23 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Jun 2021, 5:40 PM

1998 was a special year. Not because that was the first time I flunked in a Sanskrit paper in class, but because I got around to watching my first Hollywood film on the big screen.

There were a lot of things to look forward to in James Cameron’s Titanic — a tragic love story, a sinking ship and, of course, a diamond necklace — but what stood out for me personally was Kate Winslet.

Not only did she embody feminine grace, she also came across as an actor with promise. One that she’s lived up to consistently in films, such as The Reader, Revolutionary Road and Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, et al.

Twenty four years later, the Kate Winslet that one sees in Mare of Easttown is a completely deglamorised version of the luminous actress. The wrinkles on the face are prominent, as is the belly bulge. Winslet owns the disturbed life of Mare Sheehan.

She also takes acting to a higher art form with her nuanced portrayal of motherhood (and grandmotherhood) and its several layers. For those who are yet to watch the series, Mare of Easttown revolves around a Pennsylvania detective who is tasked with investigating the murder of a teenage mother.

Mare is also lugging the burden of a botched investigation where she has been able to find a girl who went missing a year ago. Like most modern detectives who we have come to love in shows like Broadchurch and The Fall, she also carries the baggage of a son’s suicide and having to fight a bitter custody battle for her grandson. The show might be premised on a whodunnit, but it ponders over whether it is possible to be a ‘good’ mother.

The mothers in Mare of Easttown are in different ages and stages of life. There are young mums, middle aged mums and old mums. And the show intelligently maps what motherhood means to different individuals.

Young mums in the show are longingly looking at a possible life without the burden of motherhood.

The middle-aged mums are battling their own demons.

Winslet’s Mare is haunted by a failure to come to terms with her son’s death. She is both a mother as well as grandmother, but finds herself more at ease in the latter relationship because children have far less incisive questions for parents than teenagers (her daughter is more resentful of Mare because she has not addressed her brother’s death).

Plus, being a grandmother also allows her to revisit those parts of motherhood that were uncomplicated and rewarding.

The older mums are more content; they have more playful relationships with their children having gone through the whole gamut of emotions and experiences that do not exactly make life a cakewalk. They have their own share of regrets and hurt, but at that stage in life, it’s alright to forgive oneself.

Our relationships with parents evolve over a period of time. What begins with a grouse can graduate to becoming resentment, but maturing gives us a perspective that allows us to recognise that our mothers are also individuals in flesh and bone.

Motherhood is gratifying, but it is also messy. Mare of Easttown proves that the salvation lies somewhere in the middle.

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