Poor Sherry. She’s one of those people who go through life always a step or two behind other people, and behind where she’s trying hard to be. She’s not a bad person, but everything she does is just a little bit … off. She is inappropriate, she has a quick temper that doesn’t serve her well, she is impatient, she tries too hard, she is self-centered. She is a drug addict who just got out of jail, clean, going to AA and NA, but still craving. She has a terrible history that we only learn late in the story, and which I will not reveal … but given that history, she may never have had a chance. She’s got a daughter who she thinks she adores … but I’m not sure she knows how to love. The daughter has been cared for by her brother and sister-in-law, and it’s clear they are a lot better at it than she is. You can’t say she has no parenting skills, because she’s very good with other children. But around her own daughter she is smothering, clueless, given to the big gesture, but unable to reach her. She’s a walking pile of contradictions, and I’d have said her case was hopeless (this is quite a depressing film), and yet she pulls back from the final bad decision, and I’m left with a small feeling of hope.
I rented this because we heard Terry Gross interview Maggie Gyllenhaal about it on “Fresh Air.” I was intrigued. So far I had only seen Maggie G. (and that name makes me long for the days when the studios shortened them!) in more standard roles, not the chancier stuff she’s better known for, such as Secretary. Now I’d like to see that. She is tall and a bit gawky and absolutely fearless. She plays a nude scene more naturally than almost any actor I’ve ever seen. I have to say I was very impressed with her performance, and with all the others in the movie, and with the writer/director, Laurie Collyer.