She is what she is. She is not able to restrain herself. She needs gratification. She can't postpone it. She succumbs to whatever it is, sex, heroin, alcohol, nicotine...love. She is impulsive and she flies off the handle easily. She doesn't know that she behaves badly. She doesn't know that is not the way to dress. Or perhaps she does. She needs to be gratified, and so probably that is why she dresses that way.
She was sexually abused by her father who loved her. But who does she love? She desperately wants her daughter to love her. Do you love me? she asks. Say, "I love you, Mommie." The child does, but suddenly--and this is the denouement of the movie--Sherry realizes that there is some question about whether the child should love her. Yes, she has the stretch marks, but really does she deserve the title of "mother"? And does she love herself? Probably not, and maybe that is her biggest problem. It is said that women who are always seeking sex are really seeking a love that they cannot find. One always feels that if only they would pick the right man. But this is an illusion. There is no right man until she is the right woman.
Maggie Gyllenhaal does an outstanding job of becoming this woman who is lost in this world without a compass as to how she should behave and why, who is lost to everything but her immediate feelings. She is a child emotionally and she cannot understand why it is that life is so hard for her and why the world is so cruel.
This is a masterful portrait of a kind of person that is part of humanity. A good person at heart, not someone who would do others deliberate harm, but a person who is blind to who she is and to how others see her. Into what world does belong? is a question I kept asking myself. I don't know the answer.
Laurie Collyer's direction is exquisite. The players and especially the little girl are wonderfully directed. Everything is like the people next door without a hint of anything phony. The contemporary Garden State setting is real and the details and the atmosphere are as genuine as the New Jersey Turnpike. And the ending surprises. It is perfect but in a way that I suspect most viewers will not be able to predict. I know it surprised me.
My hat is off to Laurie Collyer and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Thank you for this modest little masterpiece and for not compromising reality or putting in any unnecessary fig leaves or giving in to any notions of political correctness. This is just a pure slice of life movie with a beginning, a middle and an end, beautifully realized. And yes it is rated R.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
Sherry Swanson returns home to New Jersey after serving a three year prison sentence. Eager to reestablish a relationship with her young daughter, Sherry soon discovers that coming back to the world she left behind is far more difficult than she had planned.
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November 12, 2015 at 11:05 PM