Plot: Natalie (Leah Pipes) recently lost her mother to cancer, gave birth to her first child, and moved to a new neighborhood, all in short order and the stress has started to break her down. In the wake of her pregnancy, Natalie finds herself dealing with severe postpartum depression and despite attempts to shake loose, she can’t seem to escape the negative emotions. Her husband is too busy and distracted to give her the kind of support and affection she craves, while she can’t find a minute to herself, so she struggles to hold the household together. When her mind blanks and she loses control of the stroller, she panics, but is relieved when another mom steps in to help, which is how she meets Grace (Helena Mattsson). A single mother, Grace is coping with issues of her own, so the two strike up a quick friendship and soon enough, Natalie is brought into a group of supportive mothers. When things begin to seem a little suspicious, is it all in her head or is there something strange about her new friends?
Entertainment Value: I’ve seen a good deal of Lifetime movies and without question, Mommy Group Murder is one of the most well crafted, especially in terms of how the trials of motherhood are explored. The movie leans on the usual Lifetime melodrama, but also invests time to develop Natalie as a believable, grounded character. This includes a masterful early montage that establishes the repetition, tedium, and denied relief she experiences. This is potent, realistic content that deserves more eyes, though of course, the movie soon pivots into a thriller. Even then, Natalie’s mental health and vulnerable state are factors in how the thriller elements unfold, so while there’s the melodrama, this is very well written and executed. The shifts between grounded and melodrama might seem like they’d be jarring, but that isn’t the case and Mommy Group Murder isn’t a wild, over the top ride like some Lifetime movies, more of a grounded thriller that dials things up when needed. Still a good amount of drama and a fun thriller, but it does a lot more than just provide a simple whodunit, so the movie deserves some solid credit. If you have even a minor interest in Lifetime cinema or just want to see a skilled take on the tribulations of motherhood, give Mommy Group Murder a look.
While most of the more memorable Lifetime performances involve melodramatic, even manic performances, a good portion of the material in this one requires a more subtle, sincere approach. Leah Pipes is more than up to the task and handles the serious drama well, even in the early, expositional scenes and those involve some real heavy lifting, so her work here is impressive. That quiet despair montage is a show stopper and Pipes just nails it. That series of scenes is so crucial in building Natalie’s character, so it had to be done just right, which it is and then some. I love the wild, crazy performances as much as anyone, but sometimes a more refined, restrained effort is called for and that is just what this material demands. But we do get some drama and even melodrama, with Helena Mattsson given a little more of the typical Lifetime fuel to work with. Not insane or overly manic, but a fun performance. The cast here also includes Kate Mansi, Ryan Carnes, Nichole Galacia, and Bailey Anne Borders.
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