For those who know about "Sherrybaby" because it features Maggie Gyllenhaal naked, having sex and giving a blow job should know something else, this is a movie more than just titillation. "Sherrybaby" is a powerful and for the most honest drama about a woman who is trying to make a fresh start after doing time but finds numerous barriers and temptations preventing her from getting what she wants which includes reconnecting with her 8 year old daughter. This isn't some happy ever after drama made to inspire, but a movie which makes us realise the real difficulties which present themselves to those who have done their time and want to make a fresh start.
Having served 3 years in jail on robbery and drug charges Sherry Swanson (Maggie Gyllenhaal - Mona Lisa Smile) is not only out on parole but also clean. Determined to have a new start and become a real mum to her 8 year old daughter Sherry soon discovers that it is going to be hard. From her brother and sister-in-law not happy for Sherry to walk back in to the life of her daughter to a heartless Parole Officer ready to throw her back in side for the smallest of violations everything seems to be against her and leading her back to the temptations of drugs.
You could sum up "Sherrybaby" by saying it is the trials and tribulations of Sherry Swanson on leaving prison. We watch as she has to deal with a cold Parole Officer who almost seems like he would prefer she was back inside than help, whilst also living in a shared home with other released criminals which is no better than being in prison. We also see how trying to reconnect with her 8 year old daughter provides more difficulties as her sister-in-law having become mother in her absence is not happy about Sherry returning. And we also witness how being attractive and newly released convict leads to men trying to take advantage of her.
There is more going on than just this but everything combines to highlight how difficult it is for Sherry to start a fresh when everything seems to be conspiring against her. And as such we watch how the temptation to return to drugs is always strong especially when it seems like she has nothing going for her. Even when things start to go well there is always something to knock her back.
All of which is very simple but also engrossing as we watch how the bright and bubbly Sherry on getting out of jail is slowly beaten down by all these obstacles. And part of the reason why it is so engrossing is that we wonder why Sherry ended up going off the rails in the first place. We never get explicitly told why but it is made very clear as to why Sherry ended up such a conflicted character that desires attention and is free when it comes to sex and sexual favours. And as such whilst we do get the sex scenes, some of which are surprising and we see Maggie Gyllenhaal naked it is not titillation but the make up of her character that needs to connect and get attention.
Now there are a lot of fine performances in "Sherrybaby" and both Giancarlo Esposito as Parole Officer Hernandez and Danny Trejo as addiction counsellor Dean Walker both impress. But in many ways "Sherrybaby" is a one woman show and that woman is Maggie Gyllenhaal who delivers a believable character someone who is flawed but we also warm to because of her goodness. And Gyllenhaal makes Sherry believable because everything seems so natural, unrehearsed with responses delivered in the spur of the moment rather than tightly scripted. It is because of Gyllenhaal that considering this movie does have depressing undertones it is entertaining to watch.
There is really only one issue I have with "Sherrybaby" and is the final 10 minutes because after a movie which delivers so much real life it then conjures up something which feels to manufactured. It's not a case of being a happy ever after ending cop out but it feels different to what had come before and slightly spoils things.
What this all boils down to is that whilst some may know "Sherrybaby" for the sex scenes and Maggie Gyllenhaal getting naked it should be known for a powerful real story. For a movie which does have a lot of depressing undertones it is thoroughly entertaining and only gets it slightly wrong as it tries to find an ending. For those who have grown tired of the same old mainstream movies it is worth checking "Sherrybaby" out.