Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Danny Trejo, Giancarlo Esposito, Brad William Henke

"No one makes it alone"

This film explores the journey of one woman to find her place in this world amidst several difficult but very realistic struggles. Sherry Swanson is a single mother recently released after 3 years in prison for drugs related offenses. Her first concern is to reconnect with her young daughter, Alexis. The child now lives with Sherry's brother Bobby and his wife Lynnette.

A film showcased in very basic surroundings with minimal effects, its simplistic approach belies the heavy human drama it aims to expose. We witness the various emotional upheavals that Sherry struggles to overcome. We cheer on as she connects with her daughter. We cringe at the way that she handles her job interviews. We are repulsed by the manner Sherry's father treats her. We pity her when she unravels after she discovers certain disturbing facts. Yet amidst such dramatic moments in her life, we don't judge her for her shortcomings and her failures in life.

Maggie Gyllenhaal's effortless portrayal of Sherry played a big part in why we the audience are so forgiving towards Sherry. Her acting was superb. Her facial expressions and body gestures convincingly convey a wide range of emotions sans the usual hysterics. She delivers her lines in a clear tone. Her complicated character evolves and grows both physically and mentally as the film unfolds. In the beginning, she is this vulnerable ex convict in tacky clothes trying to redeem herself. In an effort to assume a more responsible role both as a person and as a mother, she adapts a more mature appearance. Deep inside she also comes to grip with the fact that she is just human. Maggie's realistic and effective performance made us understand where Sherry is coming from. Her troubled childhood, her murky past, her vulnerability and most of all her desperate attempt to be a good mother against all odds.

Certain scenes are disturbing to watch but the director doesn't shield us from the ugliness of life. The painful struggles that a complex character like Sherry needs to experience as she goes on her path to succeed as a mother and most of all as an individual is presented within the folds of a clear and steady plot. Ably supported by other less known but nonetheless effective actors, this independent film is certainly Maggie Gyllenhaal's best bet at proving she is a talented yet underrated actress.

A poignantly realistic film about one woman's inspiring journey to make her life more meaningful. It doesn't aim to preach nor does it justify her actions. It simply tells her story, period.

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