Director: Laurie Collyer
Recently robbed of an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe (although luckily they had the wisdom to nominate her work), Maggie Gyllenhaal proves once again why she’s one of our most promising young actresses in her emotionally searing portrayal of Sherry Swanson. Recently released from prison after serving a three year drug and theft sentence, Sherry finds that the outside world is even more harrowing than the one she'd faced behind bars as she is challenged at every turn by parole officers, the hunger for drugs, men willing to exploit her when they know they hold the power, and above all her incessant struggle to integrate herself back into the life of Alexis, the baby girl she left behind. When she first reunites with Alexis, it’s joyous, painful and real but the film by newcomer NYU graduate Laurie Collyer doesn’t take any shortcuts—in those three vital years, Alexis has become the “daughter” both emotionally and mentally of Sherry’s brother and his wife. The film is a difficult one to be sure and one that was overlooked after its smash reception and nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival when another acclaimed, similarly themed indie film Half Nelson took the critical spotlight and earned Ryan Gosling an Academy Award nomination. Now that SherryBaby has been released on DVD, hopefully it will find the audience it deserves as theatres ignored the challenging film. Collyer’s film promises more great things to come—she channels John Cassavetes perfectly with this work and Gyllenhaal’s performance immediately calls to mind Cassavete’s recurring leading lady Gena Rowlands. Sherry Swanson is another Woman Under the Influence and it’s Gyllenahaal’s portrayal that keeps audiences rivted. Note: Naomi Foner (mother of Jake and Maggie Gyllenaal) is a close friend and mentor of Collyer and it’s through this friendship that the film reached Maggie.