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Lifetime Review: ‘A Working Mom’s Nightmare’

A rocky marriage is only the start of Lydia Wilson’s problems in this sleek obsession thriller.

Having recently returned from a sabbatical, Kathy Hartman (Lydia Wilson) is nervous to prove she’s back and ready to return to the fray of her business firm. When she learns that her interim replacement, Hannah Van Dyke (Tuppence Middleton), has proven herself invaluable enough to the company that her boss Philip (Christopher Villiers) is keeping her on, Kathy feels doubly pressured to prove that she still has value as an employee. On top of that, Kathy finds herself having grown distant from her husband Mark (Luke Roberts), leading her to fear for both her career and her marriage.

Despite her initial jealousy of Hannah, Kathy’s new co-worker initially appears to be a welcome addition to the firm. Chipper and always eager to help, Hannah has thoroughly won over Philip and seems prepared to work cooperatively with Kathy. But despite Hannah’s bright smiles, Kathy feels something is off about her new co-worker. No sooner have Kathy and Hannah begun working together, Kathy finds her work suffering as a result of Hannah, with her attempts to report her to Philip falling on deaf ears. As Kathy’s life continues to crumble, it becomes clear that someone is out to destroy her—and take from Kathy what she holds dear.

Based off the 2014 Jane Lyhtell novel The Lies of You: I Will Have What is Mine, A Working Mom’s Nightmare is notable for its aesthetic. In addition to the beautiful house used for Kathy and Mark’s abode, the film’s climax takes place in a surreal-esque apartment (that’s as much as I can describe without spoiling) that adds to the already well-done tension that is felt through the third act. The aforementioned beautiful abode also works with the actors in creating a palpable juxtaposition: while the audience might find themselves getting lost in the beauty of the Hartmans’ idyllic home, it’s offset by the distinct feeling of unspoken tension you feel between the husband and wife.

The film’s aesthetic strengths are matched by its strong cast of actors, with Lydia Wilson bringing emotional intensity and vulnerability to Kathy as she finds her life inexplicably collapsing around her. Wilson brings a ferocity to Kathy as she fights to prove to everyone around her that things are not as they seem with Hannah, making you feel as frustrated as she is, as everyone in her life begins to turn on her and accuse her of unraveling. Wilson also plays well off of Luke Roberts in their dynamic of a seemingly ideal couple internally struggling with their relationship, allowing the viewer to sympathize with Kathy and cheer when the third act has her becoming determined in her drive to reclaim her life.

On his own, Luke Roberts does well as Mark, even as his character’s aloofness to what Kathy is experiencing starts to go into insufferable territory. Just as his detachment begins to mangle his character, however, A Working Mom’s Nightmare throws an unexpected twist by giving Mark a deeper motivation for his behavior beyond being a “Jerkass Husband” trope. Not only that, but the film allows for Mark to redeem himself of his callousness by coming to Kathy with the revelations that are made, rather than keeping them to himself like a typical character in his position would. It all culminates in Mark becoming an unexpected hero for the final act, and fully salvages him from the stereotypical pitfalls that the writing team could’ve easily given him.

Despite her diminished presence in the film thanks to the uneven pacing, Tuppence Middleton does well as Hannah once her true colors begin to emerge, striking the right balance between delusional zeal and psychotic fervor in the intense finale. Simone Ashley and Lauren Coe are likable as Kathy’s co-worker Aisha and nanny Fran respectively, while Alexis Rodney brings energy and personality to Mark’s co-worker/confidante Tom; a role that could’ve easily been a blank slate character. Another surprise comes from Rupert Graves’ portrayal of Kathy’s troubled ex Eddie.

From his first appearance, you might expect him to be going down the standard route of “Heroine’s Douchebag Ex-Boyfriend” route, but instead, the film allows for Eddie’s character to defy Lifetimers’ expectations. Instead, Eddie (for all of his oddities) is shown to be a legitimately good guy, with Graves’ charisma-heavy performance and chemistry with Wilson allowing for his arc as someone who is seeking out a genuine friendship with Kathy, and who proves to be a rock for her as she finds herself at Hannah’s mercy. The weak spot of the characters would definitely be Philip—not on account of Christopher Villiers’ acting, but as a result of Philip’s horrifically callous treatment of Kathy throughout the film, as well as his blindness to Hannah’s actions and consistency of believing Hannah (a relative stranger) over Kathy (someone he considers a long-time friend). It all becomes so grating towards the second act that the film’s attempts to redeem Philip feels undeserved and rushed.

As a whole, however, A Working Mom’s Nightmare’s biggest crutch would have to be pacing, as so much of the film focuses on the build-up that some viewers may tune out before the payoff comes. But if you stick around through the occasional slogging bits, the film will give a strong aesthetic, well-rounded characters, and a full-on Lifetimey climax to reward you for your patience. The pacing may turn some away, but as a Lifetime thriller with a unique sense of style, A Working Mom’s Nightmare certainly delivers.

Score: 7 out of 10 floating stuffed animals.