by Tuna

SherryBaby (2006) is a first feature from writer/director Laurie Callyer, and another great vehicle for Maggie Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal plays Sherry, just paroled after serving three years for robbery to support her drug habit.  We learn that she grew up with a sexually abusive father, and worked as a stripper at 16.  The father of her baby was also in prison, but escaped and is missing. Her stated goal, to control her life and win her daughter back both physically and emotionally, is a wonderful sentiment, but she is still a flawed character. Meanwhile, her brother and sister-in-law have been raising her daughter for three years, and do not want to let go.

Sherry is not an altogether unsympathetic character, but you want to reach through the screen and slap her upside the head for some of her choices. She is quick to give sexual favors to get her way, such as giving a blow job for a shot at a job she wants. She has anger issues. It is clear that she really wants to get involved in drugs again. She is also drinking.  She clearly thinks that wanting things should be enough to get them.  True to real life, the film ends without Sherry reaching redemption, although she is taking a step on the right path.

Maggie Gyllenhaal not only delivers a wonderful performance, but hauls out her breasts and buns several times. You will want to see this for the nudity and an excellent performance by Gyllenhaal, but it is not a feel-good film.

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Just out of prison after three years and hoping to reconnect with a daughter who is being raised by her brother and his wife, Sherry really seems like a good person at heart. Unlike most junkies we see in films, Sherry is not a jaded, calloused, world-weary soul. She loves children and genuinely enjoys working with them. She relates very well to her own daughter and really listens to what she has to say. The problem is that Sherry herself is still a child. Her body may say "late twenties," but she has the emotional development of a 14-year-old. When the family gathers at her dad's house, Sherry is jumping up and down on the couch, drawing attention to herself. When they sit down for a meal, Sherry insists on performing an unsolicited song, again drawing attention to herself. She is consistently immature in her approach to every situation, and that creates the film's central dynamic. Because she is basically so ingenuous and really wants to be a better person, we really want her to succeed. Because she is basically so immature, we know she probably won't.

When Sherry gets out of prison on parole (with a perfect tan, by the way), her curfew prevents her from establishing a proper connection with her daughter, and she seems about to be shuttled off into a dreary factory life which will undoubtedly drive her back into drug use. That's the grim reality of people trying to reestablish a life after prison, and those are the rules. Sherry takes the bull by the horns, or rather by the penis, and uses her sexuality to change the rules. She has sex with the manager of the halfway house, which gets her some latitude on her curfew; then she gives a blowjob to her employment counselor, which gets her assigned to a daycare center instead of a factory.  The critical reactions to this scene were fascinating. Many condemned her behavior and cited these instances as proof that she always takes the easy way out and is not willing to pay the real price to get what she wants. Others cited the same events as proof that Sherry is willing to do whatever is necessary to get a decent job and be close to her daughter. I fell more into the latter camp. If you remove your own preconceived morality from the situation and see it through Sherry's eyes, you can evaluate what she did pragmatically. She is trained to be a daycare worker and she loves children. In order to get the daycare job, all she has to do is give one guy some head. If she does not give the blow job, she will spend the rest of her life on an assembly line. From her perspective, the price is very low, and the reward is very high. If one withholds moral judgment, Sherry is the feisty outsider who has found a way to beat an oppressive system.

The problem is that she doesn't know when it's time to stop fighting the system and start joining it. Once she gets everything lined up in her favor, she wants to keep taking short cuts to solve the problems that inevitably arise. Her brother and his wife have been raising the little girl as their own, and they are understandably worried about the impact of Sherry's re-emergence in the girl's life, given that Sherry is a promiscuous, immature junkie and is on parole for armed robbery. Unable to consider their point of view, Sherry is offended by their attempts to restrict her access to the girl, and by the fact that her sister-in-law instructs the girl to call Sherry "Sherry" instead of "mommy." Perhaps the brother and his wife made some mistakes and perhaps they should have discussed a parenting strategy with Sherry, but they acted out of concern for the child's welfare. Sherry couldn't or wouldn't understand that. She wanted to short-cut the relationship with her daughter the same way that she was able to short-cut the curfew and the job interview. She doesn't seem capable of grasping the difference between the situations, or reasoning that some problems have instant solutions while others take time. She's not capable of thinking that she just needs to sit down with her family, discuss the situation rationally and create a mutually agreeable plan. Her only reaction is to fly off the handle and overreact to her family, as if the entire situation were about her own short-term emotional needs and not the long-term welfare of her child.

By the way, didn't I already see this same movie last year with Vera Farmiga? I thought it was called Down to the Bone then. When you first read about Sherrybaby, you wonder if it is one of those genre parodies, using the core story of Down to the Bone as the central focus, and targeting "indie films" as the genre to be lampooned. It could be called something like "My Big Fat Sundance Movie." Heroin addict: check. Sexual adventurer: check. Betrayed as a child: check.

Hey, where's the pudding and the cowboy hats?

Although the film does have a "made for Sundance" quality about it, the one thing that raises this story above the usual, predictable indie level is that the script gets the most important thing right: it gets the audience rooting for Sherry to kick her jones and reunite happily with her family. We really want her to do better, and we rejoice with her when she seems to make some progress. That's the good news. The bad news is that she's not a very good horse for us to bet on. She's a real long shot, so our hopes for her are probably going to be dashed. Of course, since this is an indie movie, we're never sure exactly what the future holds for Sherry. In a Hollywood movie, Sherry would probably have something very close to a happy ending, or perhaps she would have an emotionally devastating sad ending, but it would be something tidy in either case. This film comes from the indie world where things are not so tidy, so Sherry basically has no ending at all. Like most people in real life, she is somewhere in the middle of her story.


* Widescreen anamorphic, 16x9.

* Excellent transfer.

* Theatrical trailer

* No meaningful extra features of any kind




Maggie Gyllenhaal was nominated for a Golden Globe as the best actress in a drama. The critics, although ambivalent about the movie, universally praised Maggie's down-to-earth warts-and-all portrayal of Sherry.

Maggie's scenes with the little girl have a unique quality that I can't compare to any other adult-child interaction on screen. They convey the feeling of a documentary or home video. The girl doesn't seem to be acting at all, but seems like a real little kid, rambling and often distracted. At first I was put off by this, and then I realized that was because I wanted her to act like a movie kid instead of a real kid. It seems to me that the director and Maggie probably improvised much of this with the girl rather than giving her specific lines to deliver. My guess is that they were just playing make-believe games with the child and allowing the camera to film the games, thus creating footage which could later be culled and edited into the story. I'll bet there was a lot of footage discarded as well. I am just speculating about that but however they pulled it off, Maggie and the director made the scenes with the little girl seem to be taken from a family's home videos, with none of the synthetic quality that usually obtains from movie children. Kudos to Maggie for working so effectively with the little nipper.

She was understandably touted as an Oscar candidate, but must have just missed the cut.

69 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
66 (of 100)


6.5 IMDB summary (of 10)
B- Yahoo Movies



Box Office Mojo. It played only in major markets, only in the arthouse mini-circuit, never reaching more than thirteen theaters and grossing about $200,000.


Maggie Gyllenhaal plays several sex scenes and shows her breasts several times, often in good light. She is also seen in see-through panties. Our readers chose this as one of the top five nude scenes of 2007.

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is a solid film, raised above indie filmmaking clichés by a gifted actress.