The Good Mothers
There are echoes of Jonas Carpignano’s Calabrian trilogy in Disney+’s The Good Mothers. Based on Alex Perry’s book of the same name, the six-part show takes viewers into the heart of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, as it follows the real-life stories of three women who dared to defy their violent husbands and fathers, alongside the prosecutor (Marabina Jaimes) fighting in their corner to take down the organisation. Beautifully acted and shot, the crime series provides an authentic insight into the criminal organisation through a feminist lens. With the first two episodes moving at a glacial pace, however, there’s not much to grab a viewer’s attention within the opening hours.
Just as Carpignano introduced filmgoers to Calabria’s criminal underbelly via his young protagonists, this series likewise anchors itself around the experiences of teenager Denise (Gaia Girace). After her mother (Micaela Ramazzotti) disappears after coming out of witness protection, the teenager is forced to live with her crime boss father (Francesco Colella). Meanwhile, Giuseppina (Valentina Bellè) and Concetta (Simona Distefano) are living under the shadow of the family whilst trying to do the best they can for their children.
An outsider to the shady goings on, who’s lived years of her life in hiding, Denise is the viewer’s gateway to understanding the severity of the threat these women face. Alarm bells start to ring when her mother doesn’t answer her phone and fails to return later that night with Denise’s father. A stern phone call from the teen’s aunt in hushed tones informing her of the reality of her precarious situation only furthers the tension, as a wrong move could see her suffer a similar fate. Underscoring this sense of danger is a chilling performance from Colella as notorious mafioso Carlo Cosco. He plays the part with a domineering and icy demeanour, a warning that he could switch to violence at any given moment.
The other ‘Ndrangheta members introduced in the opening episodes aren’t much friendlier, with one dinner scene turning into an intense confrontation. Each sequence is carefully shot and wonderfully acted, which only makes these scenarios feel that bit more real. It’s frustrating, then, that the sluggish pacing makes a habit of taking away from the atmosphere while viewers wait for the next plot beat to nudge the script back to life.
The Good Mothers is released on Disney+ on 5th April 2023. Watch our interviews with the cast and creators here.
Watch the trailer for The Good Mothers here: