Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Sherrybaby-Review by Guest Contributor Joseph Wren

Written & directed by Laurie Collyer
Rated 15
96 minutes

Released July 27

Sherrybaby, the feature debut from writer/director Laurie Collyer, is a US indie starring Oscar-snubee Maggie Gyllenhaal as a stumbling disaster of a young woman straight out of the slammer.

As a parolee confined to stay within the state lines of New Jersey (insert sympathetic sound of disgust here), Sherry has got a long battle toward normalcy. Her young daughter (Ryan Simpkins) has been raised by her kind brother (Brad William Henke – who also played Gyllenhaal’s brother in World Trade Center) and his wife (Bridget Barkan), and Sherry has got a lot to prove before she can become a proper mom – starting with kicking a pesky smack addiction. The plot is cliché ridden – she’s the white junkie in the midst of the ‘hood (in this case Newark), sexing about with nearly everyone she meets, getting reamed out by her Parole Officer, struggling for possession of her child, while shouldering her own childhood trauma. There’s really nothing here that’s overly shocking, unless you’re new to this kind of story. What distinguishes Sherrybaby from indie-schmindie druggy pics is Collyer’s honest hand-held camera, and the brutally convincing performance that Gyllenhaal injects into the role.

Not an enjoyable film by any stretch, Sherrybaby is an interesting case for your time. There aren’t enough women filmmakers (there never are), and I’m intrigued by Collyer, who, recalling the cinema of John Cassavettes, decides to just let us watch the scenarios and decide for ourselves. Aside from a lame soundtrack of a lazily strumming guitar, there’s little in the way of emotional manipulation. As a protagonist, Sherry isn’t particularly likable, or sympathetic. Sherrybaby ultimately is an effective look, not at a junkie, but at an absent parent.

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