I thought I could watch Maggie Gyllenhaal in anything. What I forgot was that I could, but it might be depressing, like it was in SherryBaby. I picked up this movie because of her and because the short description I read ahead did not mention drug use. I really like to avoid movies with excessive or even minimal drug references. This time I failed. There was not much actual drug usage shown, but the story was revolving around a person, whose life was ruined by drugs. She stole things so she could sell them to buy drugs. She got caught and was sent to prison for three years. The story starts with her release and follows how she tries to rebuild her life, most importantly regain the love, attention and confidence of her 5 year old daughter. Bases on this plot, you can guess that it was a tough movie. Tough in the emotional and dramatic sense, and not necessarily in the physical violence sense, but we still get a bit of that too.
Gyllenhaal is convincingly portrays the fights with her demons, family and the system. It was a bit shocking for me how naturally she uses sex to work the system for her advantage. I am not sure whether we are to believe that she learned this skill and the sense of apathy needed in prison or before. What I found depressing was that she started to undress even before asking a office clerk whether he wants to be pleased. She did it because she wanted a job with children and not some menial dead-end position. She just assumed that the office clerk can be bought with a quickie. The sad truth was that she was right. That’s just wrong. But in the world she lived in, which is rather mine, this seemed evident enough.
SherryBaby had to do a lot of inner work to get closer what she wanted. That was something she did not expect when she got out. She was prepared to fight and love, but not to dive into the depth of her own soul and face the wrongs she did and think about ways how to correct them. To look at it from another perspective the movie shows how and why one falls back to her old ways after getting out of prison is she stays in the same circle and place as before getting jailed. As a sociological portrait this is dead on description. The movie was hard to enjoy, but appreciated the accurate description of a hard life. Made me grateful that my problems are so different and compared to hers are much lighter.