Lifetime Review: 'A Mother Knows Worst'
Some twists and turns add flavor and tension to what could've been a by-the-book Lifetime baby thriller.
Life for Olivia Davis (Katie Leclerc) has never been the same since her and her husband Harry's (Jeff Schine) attempt at starting their family ended with them losing their baby. Now six months later, Olivia appears to be trying to move forward with her life, even as the loss of her daughter still weighs on her mind. It's then that Olivia is introduced to Brooke Marsden (Victoria Barabas), the wife of Harry's new boss Glen (Todd Cahoon) and the mother of their infant daughter Sienna--who was born the same night Olivia and Harry's baby died.
Soon after meeting Brooke and Sienna, Olivia finds herself enamored with the infant, and begins taking every chance she gets to spend time with her. But as Olivia's love for Sienna begins to turn to obsession, everyone in her life begins to worry Olivia has allowed her grief to drive her to insanity. As frightening events begin to plague the Marsdens, a question arises: how far will Olivia go to be a mother?
On the surface, A Mother Knows Worst (previously titled A Deadly Lullaby) would appear to be a standard Lifetime thriller about a psychotic woman resorting to deranged means of becoming a mother after her attempts to give birth end in tragedy. It's a plot line that has been explored by Lifetime numerous times, so viewers familiar with Lifetime's history may come into A Mother Knows Worst certain they know what will happen. But thanks to some twists and turns courtesy of writers Rebeca Hughes and Stephen Lyons (both of whom are surprisingly fresh to the Lifetime scene), A Mother Knows Worst is much more complicated than one might expect going in.
Personally, while watching A Mother Knows Worst, I picked up on early signs that the plot wouldn't be as straightforward as was advertised, and as the film went on, I became certain of at least a few revelations that would be made much later. But thanks to both the script and the directing choices of frequent Lifetime flyer Robert Malenfant, the film was able to plant seeds of doubt in my mind regarding a few things, and for a while, I was left wondering how it would all come together in the end. Even if you're like me and piece together most of the mystery ahead of time, A Mother Knows Worst will keep your mind guessing about the pieces you're left with.
The perplexing nature of A Mother Knows Worst's mystery is also made stronger by its excellent lead performance. In the hands of Katie Leclerc, Olivia Davis remains an enigma of a character for much of the film's runtime. While the film opens with Olivia appearing to be firmly in "Troubled but Cute Heroine" territory, her quick and quietly creepy transformation into a neurotic stalker will have you questioning everything you thought about her previously and wondering just what Olivia is capable of. Leclerc handles Olivia's ambiguous nature with ease, taking her character across a broad range of emotions while the story keeps you guessing on whether or not you can trust Olivia.
Paralleling Olivia's struggles is new mother Brooke Marsden, with Victoria Barabas bringing her all to the scenes where we see that beneath her glamorous appearance, Brooke is racked with deep insecurities about being a mother--a mental anguish similar to Olivia's hardships as a grieving mother. And in a similar fashion to 2019's Mommy Group Murder, A Mother Knows Worst refreshingly depicts Brooke's postpartum depression in a realistic and sensitive light, rather than leaning on the harmful generalizations that have emerged about PPD.
Jeff Schine and Todd Cahoon finish out the film's main cast as Olivia and Brooke's respective husbands Harry and Glen, with both men striking easy chemistry together as the film opens with the men bonding over their impending fatherhood--and grow closer when Harry finds himself rocked by the loss of his daughter. As a whole, Schine matches Leclerc in terms of selling his dismay at his and Olivia's shared tragedy, though his definite best scene has Harry blasting Olivia for her unhealthy obsession with their friends' baby. Cahoon also matches Leclerc in terms of maintaining character ambiguity, and while the film's climax ultimately had the revelations I expected, the finale still made for an intense thrill ride in which everyone is at their best.
As for other faults, A Mother Knows Worst's otherwise excellent climax is interrupted by an overly long explanation session, and the film occasionally feels too sympathetic to Olivia's undoubtedly concerning fixation on baby Sienna. Overall, though, A Mother Knows Worst makes up for its potentially predictable story by keeping certain aspects of its mystery in the dark, leaving you with more than enough to mull over. There's additionally the strong cast that's able to keep that intrigue from falling apart, and it all comes to a head in a climax that keeps you watching until the bitter end. It may not be perfect for keen-eyed viewers, but for what it does to compensate for that, A Mother Knows Worst makes for a great watch.
Score: 7 out of 10 British shows where people murder each other with cake.