‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Review: The Hulu Miniseries Explores the Choices Mothers Make

What does it mean to be a mother? Does it mean giving your body, your time? Does it mean sacrificing everything — dreams, a career, stability, sanity? Do you have to provide the best that money has to offer, or is love enough? And what will you do for your child?

These questions are at the forefront of the new spellbinding Hulu miniseries, Little Fires Everywhere, which premieres with the first three episodes on the streaming service on March 18, 2020. Throughout eight episodes, the lives of two families, led by Kerry Washington‘s Mia Warren and Reese Witherspoon‘s Elena Richardson, as they are forever changed by one another.

What is ‘Little Fires Everwhere’ about?

Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) in 'Little Fires Everywhere'
Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ | Erin Simkin/Hulu

The series stars the two actresses as women living in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1997. Elena appears to have it all together. She is the wife of a successful lawyer, Bill (Joshua Jackson); mother to four teenage children, and works part-time at a small, local newspaper. One summer day, she crosses paths with Mia Warren, and her life is never the same.

Mia, meanwhile, lives a very different kind of life. She and her teenage daughter, Pearl, move from town to town. Mia is an artist (photography, mostly), but she does other odd jobs to get by. Now, Pearl is desperate to settle down and live a “normal” life. And Elena offers her a way to make that happen.

When and where does ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ take place?

The setting is key to the story. Shaker Heights is the picture of an all-American town, guaranteeing a top-notch education and all the trimmings. From the moment Mia and Pearl arrive, they discover that there are strict rules in place, and everyone looks out for one another, so to speak. But that doesn’t mean race and class don’t play into the conversation.

The year in which it takes place is important, too. From the character’s clothes to their attitudes on hot topics, the series makes it clear that it’s acknowledging this is the past, despite issues that remain current. Pop culture references, music queues, and other signs of the times are frequent, and are only occasionally highlighted a bit more than is necessary.

Who are the young stars of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’?

Pearl (Lexi Underwood) and Moody (Gavin Lewis) in 'Little Fires Everywhere'
Pearl (Lexi Underwood) and Moody (Gavin Lewis) in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ | Erin Simkin/Hulu

The story depicted here is a labyrinth of increasingly shocking discoveries. So who brings these emotions to the surface? Without a doubt, Witherspoon and Washington are at the heart of it all. But there are so many incredible supporting players deserving of recognition, especially the youngest ones.

Each of the Richardson children — Lexie (Jade Pettyjohn), Trip (Jordan Elsass), Moody (Gavin Lewis), and Izzy (Megan Stott) — have shining moments, especially Pettyjohn and Stott, who both experience different kinds of heartbreak throughout the series. And Lexi Underwood as Pearl showcases a range of emotions required of few young actors.

The message of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’

Returning to the original question: What makes a mother? Washington and Witherspoon’s characters are at the center of this, as are the younger versions of them (played to perfection by Tiffany Boone and AnnaSophia Robb, respectively), along with Huang Lu’s Bebe Chow and Rosemarie DeWitt’s Linda McCullough.

Because only episodes 1-7 were available at the time of this review, we can’t say that this question has been answered entirely. But the message is clear: No matter the hand you have been dealt, there are always going to be difficult choices to make, as a mother, as a woman, and as a person in our society. And as much as we’d like it not to be true, others will see us as our choices.