Fresh out of the joint with a heroin habit at bay, bottle-blonde Sherry Swanson (Maggie Gyllenhaal) swoops down on the young daughter she left behind, who's being cared for by Sherry's brother and his wife. In her hapless efforts to become a reformed mother, Sherry all but swallows the little girl whole and tries to bend an unbending world her way with a poisonous mix of seduction and brutish hostility, leavened with the requisite hint of Good Person beneath. Glistening with Sundance Lab grit and seriousness (rain-soaked streets, dreary strip malls, etc.), Sherrybaby is by no means a terrible film. Capably written and directed by Laurie Collyer, whose documentary background is clearly in evidence, the movie is enhanced by intelligent acting from Gyllenhaal, who takes to blue-collar like a duck to water; Brad William Henke as her sensible brother; and Danny Trejo as a sympathetic fellow former addict. But we know exactly where the transparent action is going from word one, and the movie never shakes free of a 12-step psychology that carries its subject doggedly from good intentions through relapse, more relapse, to the big secret that explains why this confused young woman is as she is, and to the inevitable glimmer of hope. Sherry may represent a generation bereft of its moorings, but as an individual she's no more than the sum of her pathologies.
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