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Lifetime Review: 'Mommy Group Murder'

A troubled mother's new friend group leads her to uncover dangerous secrets in this surprisingly deep suburban thriller.

For Natalie (Leah Pipes), motherhood is not coming easy. Having recently lost her own mother to cancer and developing postpartum depression in the wake of the birth of her daughter Hannah, Natalie finds herself in a continuous struggle to hold herself together after she and her husband Ryan (Ryan Carnes) move to a new neighborhood for his work.

It's after a frightening incident at the park with Hannah that Natalie meets her new neighbor Grace Gable (Helena Mattsson), a single mother who Natalie quickly bonds with. Grace subsequently invites Natalie to join her friend group of fellow mothers, allowing Natalie the much-needed opportunity to make friends and vent about her struggles. But soon, Natalie begins to realize her friend group may not be as tight-knit and supportive as they appear, and when a mysterious woman on social media begins sending her warnings to stay away from Grace, Natalie begins to suspect something is amiss. After a secret of Grace's comes out, Natalie begins to suspect that all might not be as it seems in her new neighborhood....and the secrets she uncovers might just cost her her life.

In the realm of Lifetime movies, suburbia is often a place where dark secrets and dangerous people lurk in plain sight, and Mommy Group Murder is such a film to adopt this portrayal of the suburbs. But setting itself apart from other "Suburban Secrets" films is that a secondary conflict of Mommy Group Murder exists and tackles the real-life issue of postpartum depression in an empathetic and authentic way. The film's poignant opening (and much of its' first act) shows Natalie struggling with both her recent loss and her bout with PPD, with Leah Pipes' performance and the realistic way in which her mental anguish is portrayed blending into a perfect character building opener.

Additionally, this opening sets Natalie's story arc up well, as the audience gets to see her go from a fragile woman struggling to keep herself together to a fierce and independent protagonist; with Pipes dropping hint throughout the movie that this aspect of Natalie was always inside her, but just needed the right motivation to be brought back to the surface. As a result, the normally frustrating "Heroine Plays Detective" climax becomes something to root for in Mommy Group Murder, as it is a much desired and much-deserved conclusion to Natalie's arc of overcoming her mental struggles and insecurities to reclaim control of her life, and all of this makes the film's ultimate conclusion all the more heartwarming.

The cast surrounding Pipes also delivers, with Ryan Carnes giving a realistic portrayal of a loving and well-meaning husband struggling to find the right way to help his wife--something likely to be relatable to anyone who has struggled with giving support to a mentally ill loved one. The members of the titular "mommy group" play well off each other to where you genuinely believe that, flaws and all, they are friends and genuinely care for one another--even as secrets threaten to destroy their bond. 

Nichole Galicia stands out as the proactive and quick-thinking Roz, serving almost as a co-protagonist alongside Natalie as they work together to unearth the truth, and Kate Mansi is sympathetic as struggling working mother Maria, whose family ended up in the crossfire of the hidden villain's schemes. Speaking of, said hidden villain (whose identity I intend to keep hidden) stands out as a particularly sinister antagonist, whose dark history and general air of unbalanced malice and ruthlessness makes them a villain that will send chills down your spine once their true nature comes to the surface.

Mommy Group Murder ultimately has just about everything a Lifetime fan can hope for: a good story, a talented cast, a strong protagonist and villain, and thrills aplenty to keep viewers on their toes and watching for more. The additional overarching narrative regarding Natalie gives Mommy Group Murder heart to go with its thrills and mayhem, making it a film that is sure to entertain hardened Lifetime fans and newcomers alike.

Score: 10 out of 10 screwdrivers.

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Lifetime Review: 'Mommy Group Murder'
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