Review: Little Fires Everywhere
This miniseries might have premiered in the US in March, but watching it amid the Black Lives Matter movement raging in the country today makes it even more prescient than it probably intended to be.
And when Little Fires Everywhere begins with a family emotionlessly watching their posh colonial house engulfed in flames, and their youngest (missing) daughter flagged as the potential fire starter, you expect sparks to fly.
And boy, do they ever.
When a nomadic, secretive African-American single mum Mia (Washington) drives into the outwardly integrated Midwestern upper-middle-class community of Shaker Heights with her teenage daughter in a rickety old car, such a bizarre sight catches the eye of tiger mum Elena (Witherspoon).
The epitome of white privilege - labelled a "Karen" in today's lingo - the nosy resident calls the cops to check on Mia.
Casual racism and class inequality bubble at first, but the simmering power dynamic and tension between them inevitably come to a boil.
Even their children, each struggling with their own desires and bad decisions, get badly burned.
What unfolds is an addictive drama that will leave you scorched. Witherspoon is at her award-winning best as the passive-aggressive suburban Queen Bee who makes her rather similar character in Big Little Lies look positively comatose.
Mia is Elena's perfect foil - emotional, at times cruel and follows her own rules. When these women from different socio-economic backgrounds and with heartbreaking backstories go head to head, it is TV gold.
At different points, you will end up loving and/or loathing their characters - richly written to incorporate every flaw and every strength.
The leading ladies put it all out there and are absolutely mesmerising, even as their performances are tough to watch because of how ferocious, raw and cutting they can be.
Little Fires Everywhere digs so deeply and powerfully into motherhood - along with all the judgment, guilt and failings that are part of the experience - that it hurts.
Throw in a sub-plot involving Mia's co-worker, a Chinese illegal immigrant fighting for custody of the baby she abandoned and who coincidentally is adopted by Elena's best friend, and you will be consumed by it all.
TV SERIES: Little Fires Everywhere
STARRING: Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Joshua Jackson, Rosemarie DeWitt
CREATORS: Liz Tigelaar
THE SKINNY: This adaptation of Celeste Ng's 2017 bestseller follows the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family, dominated by matriarch Elena (Witherspoon), and an enigmatic mother (Washington) and daughter who move into town and upend their lives.
SHOWING: Amazon Prime Video