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Sherrybaby - Review

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Sherrybaby

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal; Interview with Danny Trejo; Q & A with Laurie Collyer (Text).

THERE’S one reason for seeing Sherrybaby and that’s Maggie Gyllenhaal. The little sister of Jake delivers a raw, gutsy and utterly absorbing performance as the character at the centre of the story. How she missed out on at least an Oscar nomination, we’ll just never know!

The film begins as Sherry Swanson (Gyllenhaal) returns home to New Jersey after serving a three year prison sentence for drugs-related offences.

Desperate to start things afresh with her young daughter (Ryan Simpkins), Sherry quickly discovers that life on the outside is harder than she’d imagined and as she confronts the various obstacles in her path it gets easier and easier to sink back into the addictions that contributed to her fall from grace in the first place.

Like many previous drug-based dramas before it, Laurie Collyer’s feature film isn’t an easy watch and it’s not really trying to do anything different except remind audiences of what they probably know already (that drugs are bad!).

But it’s bolstered by the intensity of Gyllenhaal’s central performance, which is heartbreakingly honest and grittily authentic.

Whether offering a prospective employer a blow job in order to secure a position, or giving her brother a hard time for perceived lack of care, Gyllenhaal ensures that Sherry Swanson is a fully fleshed character – volatile, self-destructive, her own worst enemy but somehow sympathetic.

And she throws herself into some pretty grubby territory that occasionally borders on the voyeuristic.

Collyer, for her part, tends to make the audience feel just as dirty at times, thereby making the film a frequently uncomfortable experience.

But she also draws excellent performances from an interesting support cast, with Danny Trejo standing out as a sympathetic fellow recovering addict and Brad William Henke doing well as her put-upon brother.

Crucially, the film refuses to pull any punches and keeps things downbeat and grimly realistic right the way through to its gritty ending. It may be difficult to say you’ve actually enjoyed and liked, but Sherrybaby makes for gripping viewing and deserves to be seen for Gyllenhaal alone.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 90mins
DVD release date: January 7, 2008