Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Olive Kitteridge Mini-Series Review

"[A] lovely, ruthless, masterfully restrained two-night, four-
hour contemplation of love, marriage, parenthood, mental
illness and identity." - Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

Emmy and Academy Award-winning actress Francis McDormand plays the main character of this miniseries (based on the pulitzer prize-winning novel by Elizabeth Strout), Olive Kitteridge. Along side her is Richard Jenkins as loving husband Henry, Zoe Kazan as Henry's childish love interest, and many other supporting actors such as Bill Murray, Peter Mullan, and John Gallagher Jr. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko and written by both Elizabeth Strout and Jane Anderson, the miniseries has won eight awards, including Outstanding Limited Series. The miniseries aired November 2nd, 2014. Two back-to-back installments were released for an airtime of two hours one night, and the last two installments were aired for two hours the following night, completing the miniseries.

Set in Maine, the story follows Olive Kitteridge, a former school teacher, and her family, including her husband Henry, a retired pharmacist, and her son Christopher, a bratty child that grows to resent Olive for the way she treats Henry. Francis McDormand does an outstanding job of portraying the character of Olive Kitteridge, appearing naturally bitter and irritable. Her actions are so believable they are almost cringe worthy; even viewers begin to feel irritated with her. The first installment opens with Olive alone in the woods on a laid out blanket with a radio playing as she takes out a hand gun which she plans to commit suicide with. Before she can do so, however, the story flashes back to 25 years prior.

The story of Olive Kitteridge is one of struggle and unhappiness; bringing real world problems to a seemingly ordinary family at first glance. Olive, a misanthropic struggling with anxiety and depression, goes trough her life in a dull state, not caring whether she lives or dies, but caring an awful lot about EVERYTHING else. Things have to be a certain way, or they're wrong. These characteristics are shown through her son, permanently resenting her for being such an awful mother, as well as her husband, being the sweetest he could be and still not being good enough for Olive.

Henry eventually suffers a stroke and becomes indefinitely unresponsive to his surroundings. Olive accuses Christopher of not caring enough to visit before his father was sick, and Christopher fires back with the fact that she had been an awful mother and an awful wife. This clearly upsets Olive, and Christopher leaves the next day. Olive visits Henry frequently in the nursing home and believes he still knows what is happening around him. This, of course, is clear-cut denial. Olive begins to wish she had been nicer to Henry.

As Christopher grows older and marries, divorces, then remarries, Olive is asked to come to New York to help Christopher take care of his pregnant wife Ann, and the two do not seem to get along; Ann is eager to get along with Olive, but Olive does not like Ann. Ann is very critical of the way Olive raised Chris, and Olive leaves early after fighting with her son once more.

Olive Kitteridge is an absolutely outstanding story, filled with beautifully somber scenery and an outstanding soundtrack to go with it. The story shows the effects of mental illness as well as Olive's journey to finding what she really wants- and who she really is.

Near death experiences, major life events, and death surround Olive as she struggles with her own problems: uncontrollable irritability and loathing of the human race. The whole four hours follows her struggle to find happiness from start to finish; and in the end, she realizes she doesn't want to give up, regardless of the hard times she faced through the years.

"It baffles me, this world. I don't want to leave
it yet." - Olive Kitteridge


  1. Really well-written review, it makes me want to watch the series!

  2. This is very well written, it seems like a great show!

  3. I like how you incorporated those quotes at the start and end of your piece