; movieschocolatebooks: SHERRYBABY


Sunday, March 31


Some actresses are just too genuine to pass and too intense to ignore. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the case in Sherrybaby (2006), the story of a drug addict who tries to find her way between relapse and normal life. Sherry has just gone out of prison and she is trying to follow her parole, so registers herself into Genesis House, a place that she finds worse than prison. Nevertheless, she assumes that sleeping with the manager of the facility will make it easier for her. And it just strikes you from the very beginning how some people think that they don't deserve any better and that the only thing they have to offer is their body in exchange for attention or a second chance. Sherry is trying hard -or so she claims- to get her daughter back from her brother and his wife, who have been looking after the girl for the past three years. She just goes to all this trouble -buying her presents, playing house with her, getting so affectionate and sincere- even though you don't buy it for a second. Sherry is just too selfish and irresponsible to really turn her life around and this is what the director, Laurie Collyer, so beautifully accomplishes: to make you feel for Sherry, to actually be moved by her honest, unadorned way of expressing, even if it is impossible to like her. She really tries to impress her family and they all seem to be very friendly and caring, especially her father, who, on the occasion of her daughter's birthday party, tries to console her by slipping his hand into her dress and feeling her breast. Which is not very surprising and adds up so naturally to Sherry's image of abused-little-girl-who-turned-bad.

The movie depicts a few days from Sherry's life after prison and it does not try to convince you that she is a new person or that she is likely to succeed. You don't get your expectations high and all that is to be assumed is that Sherry will fit in modestly, relapses and all. After the abuse-suggesting episode, she runs away from the party and gets herself a fix. Dean, a man she meets at the Genesis House meetings and with whom she starts a non-exclusive relationship, takes care of her and tries to get her back on her feet. He seems to be the only normal thing in a life of chaos and insecurity. She cleans up her act and decides to take Alexis away from her brother and his wife, by lying about a so-called trip. Sherry is as insecure and uncertain with her daughter as she is with everybody else, and at the first glimpse of difficulty -the little girl wets her pants- Sherry takes the mature decision to drive her back to her brother's house. She even admits relapsing to her parole officer and under the threat of going back to jail, she agrees to enter a rehab program. She can't admit failure and she doesn't know how to ask for anybody's help, except when, at the end of her last day with Alexis, tears in her eyes, Sherry officially asks Bob, her brother, to look after her little girl.

I was so taken in by how genuinely the story was told, in such an unpretentious manner, and how against all odds, against your better judgement, you end up feeling something for the smiling Sherry. Whether it is pity, empathy, dislike or fondness, it is there: a beautiful, uninhibited actress, who truly plays her part, swinging between frailty and anger. I liked the courageous way in which Maggie Gyllenhaal played and the self-conscious manner in which Laurie Collyer directed the movie. And it was quite unexpected to see Danny Trejo, playing Dean, in a semi-good part, no guns, no dirty looks involved, all domestic and affectionate. The moments the two of them share are intense and natural and the only time you get an optimistic glimpse to Sherry's future. Maggie Gyllenhaal may not be an A list actress, but she has the grace and the potential to play any challenging part. She just needs to be given the chance!