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I Smile Back

Year: 2015
Production Co: Egoli Tossell Pictures
Director: Adam Salky
Writer: Paige Dylan/Amy Koppelman
Cast: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Oona Laurence

It's a little bit of a premise in search of a story – feeling like you could pick any stretch of weeks or months in Laney's (Sarah Silverman) life to tell the same story.

Because without giving too much away, the final scene makes it plain there might be no redemption for her as she continually struggles with (and gives into) the same demons she has when we first meet her.

As the film takes its time to reveal, she's harbouring a self destructive streak because of the way her father abandoned her as a girl – although even when he re-enters the story in the form of Chris Sarandon it doesn't provide the closure either you or Laney hopes for, and it certainly doesn't exorcise whatever demons she's carrying because of it.

She might also be suffering a plain old chemically-based mental illness which is expressed as various addictions she can't bring under control. When the film opens her husband Bruce (Josh Charles) is playing outside with their cherubic kids while she sits in the bathroom snorting coke.

On the surface the attractive couple have a perfect life with their beautiful family and warm, lovely home. But underneath the surface Laney is crumbling.

She starts an argument with the guard at her kids' school because she's been too scattered to bring her ID to get inside. When her son has a disagreement with a school friend, Laney angrily rings the friend's mother late at night to abuse her between swigs from a vodka bottle.

She crawls into her daughter's bedroom, barely able to walk, to fall asleep drunk on the floor. She's regularly sleeping with one of her friend's husbands in a hotel, seeming to hate him for it as much as she does herself.

Even when she accompanies Bruce on a business trip and it gives them to chance to reconnect a bit, you hope Laney isn't going to find a way to mess it all up (aside from taking the opportunity to visit and confront her father), but the script by Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman, who wrote the novel it's based on, seems to be assuring you there's little to no hope for Laney at all.

The performances are routinely great, especially by Silverman in the central role. Some critics have taken against it for being televisual and even depressing, and owing to the visual approach and the final scene I can agree with both assessments, but I'm a fan of Silverman's and love seeing her do good dramatic work.

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