Climax is a byline in drama about news reporter mom

2004 Oscar winner Hilary Swank has slim pickins in The Good Mother, the drama about drugs and crime invading a white middle class family in Albany, New York which she starred in and produced. The skimpy plot begins with the murder of one of her two sons, a former athlete turned drug addict and sometime dealer. She has another son, Toby (Jack Reynor). a cop. The son who died, from whom she was estranged, leaves a pregnant girlfriend, Paige (Olivia Swank). The mother, Marissa Bennings, is a hardened and hard-drinking local journalist, the last of the real writers on a paper threatened by "click" hounds and perhaps near extinction. Marissa sets out to investigate the death of her son stumbling forward, stopping for hefty shots, puffing on a cigarette she never lights. This film never catches fire either.

The movie doesn't provide dramatic scenes. The son is offed while out running. There's just a suck-in of breath. To show his background there's no more than the skimpiest flashbacks. Marissa's editor (Norm Lewis) compliments Marissa and urges her to take plenty of time off. She connects with Paige, but it's when Paige is on her own that the revelation comes. Another quick graveyard scene follows. Shots of Marissa with a baby shows us what has happened. You may remember, if you see this skimpy movie, a sequence where Marissa runs after her policeman son carrying a baby in a hamper, and jumps on a train and gets a cellphone shot through a dividing window, then sits down in a seat without comment.

None needs to be made. The script writers, young dirctor Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (30) and his collaborator Madison Harrison (who coscripted Joris-Peyrafitte's 2016 debut feature As You Are) seem to like working minimally. And that is fine. But it's got to be good and the filmmaking has to be able to make up for the lack of verbal clues. In the leanness, Swank provides steady, grim authenticity. Other performances are adequate. The score does much of the heavy lifting, and the audience is left with an unlit ciggy. There is just too little development of character or plot to provide us with a solid meal. The filmmaker is from Albany, and has a sense of place, of a local newspaper and the importance of the train that goes to New York City. But that's the periphery.

The Good Mother, 130 mins., scheduled for release in theaters Sept. 1, 2023 by Vertical Entertainment (Emily the Criminal).