"I'm such a piece of shit sometimes. I can't control myself." Sherry Swanson (Gyllenhaal) has just been released from prison after serving three years for theft and drug use. Sherry is now clean and is determined to re-establish a relationship with her daughter Alexis (Simpkins), now in the care of Sherry's brother Bobby (Henke) and his surly wife Lynette (Bridget Barkan). Initially frosty to her homecoming, Sherry slowly begins to win her family over again, but her self-destructive streak threatens to ruin everything once more. Movies about unlikeable characters either enthrall us or leave us cold, but SherryBaby plants us somewhere in the middle of an emotional no-man's land. Laurie Collyer has created a dynamite character in Sherry and, for the most of it, isn't worried if we're on her side or not. However, where the writerdirector falls down is when she tries too hard to get us on Sherry's side. At one point, out of nowhere, we learn that Sherry was sexually abused, which might justify her behaviour now, but blink and you'll miss it - and Collyer must understand that sexual abuse is too big a subject to just casually throw into the ring, especially if you're not going to refer to it again. Saying that, Collyer doesn't overdo the redemption angle at the end, nor does she overcook the melodrama, and although that's a good thing, it just might be SherryBaby's problem too – it's far too much in love with the vague, going-out-of-its-way-to-blur-the- lines angle. But it's Gyllenhaal that makes the film a winner. Totally believable as a recovering drug addict a whisker away from falling off the wagon, Gyllenhaal delivers her bravest performance (not afraid of full frontal nudity) so far and that's saying something when you take Secretary into account. She doesn't disgust us and doesn't beg sympathy for her plight either (there's that middle ground again) - she is what she is, and Gyllenhaal hits the right note every time.
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