Olive Kitteridge Review

Olive Kitteridge is a four episode mini-series that aired on HBO from November the 2nd to November the 3rd of 2014. The television series is based on the novel by the same name by Elizabeth Strout. While the novel won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009, the mini-series will likely claim a few awards of its own.

Frances McDormand plays Olive Kitteridge, who is a math teacher that tells it like it is. If something is on her mind, you’ll know it about it. She doesn’t care about hurting other’s feelings. On the other hand, you have her husband, Henry (Richard Jenkins). Henry is the polar opposite of Olive. He is kind-hearted and attempts to become a fatherly figure to everyone and anyone. And then you have their son, Christopher (Devin Druid, John Gallagher Jr.). Christopher, despite his mother’s strict parenting and harsh punishments, is a somewhat bratty kid. Of course, he becomes more like his father, as he begins to age.

As the series continues, the show begins to cover a range of topics including depression, marriage, divorce and loss. While Olive always maintains her stoic, poker face, she bottles her emotions and eventually unleashes it on others. This is usually comically and leaves the viewer with a feel of satisfaction.

The show offers a range of other characters including Kevin Coulson (John T. Mullen, Cory Michael Smith), who is a troubled youth. Kevin’s mother is addicted to prescription medications and generally neglects Kevin, which forces Olive to attempt to protect him. We also become acquainted with Jim O’Casey (Peter Mullan), who may or may not have a desire to court Olive. And do not forget Jack Kennison (Bill Murray). This wealthy businessman also provides the viewer with a reason to smile.

The show covers twenty-five years of Olive’s life. When it boils down to it, she experiences a lot of negatives, but still manages to maintain her stoic attitude. Will her harsh outlook and personality drive away her loved ones? Can Olive pull herself out of her depression and begin to live a happier, more support life?


Frances McDormand will likely win a few awards for her portrayal of the abrasive and abusive Olive. Of course, Richard Jenkins definitely performs admirably as Henry. While his role was short lived,
I really enjoyed Cory Michael Smith, as an older and more unstable Kevin Coulson. I would have really liked to have seen more of the character. Each member of the cast was great.

I really liked the presentation of the modern American marriage. If you’re capable of making your marriage last, you might end up like the Kitteridges as well. Of course, Henry and Olive seemed to balance one another’s extreme, polar opposite personalities. Their interactions were interesting, dramatic, funny and fun to experience. In the end, Olive seems to care, but has a difficult time showing her true feelings.

When it comes to mood and emotions, Olive Kitteridge definitely serves up depression and sadness.  The mini-series definitely delves deep into depression, which seems to be spread throughout the town. Many of the townsfolk deal with loss and face personal struggles with depression. It is intriguing and heart-breaking to see how each of these characters overcome or fall prey to their conditions.

Overall, Olive Kitteridge is a fun ride, although bleak. Still, the show wasn’t perfect. Some of the scenes awkwardly jump from one plot to another. Perhaps the show could’ve benefited from one or two additional episodes? Still, this is one of the best mini-series to come out of HBO is quite some time. This mini-series is definitely worth checking out. It deserves a 8.5 out of 10.

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