In SherryBaby (2006, d. Laurie Collyer) Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Sherry, a recently paroled drug offender who returns home to try to reestablish a relationship with her young daughter Alexis (Ryan Simpkins). Gyllenhaal received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, which far outstrips the dramatically thin but moving film.
SherryBaby is richly detailed when it comes to Sherry's reentry into life, from her dealings with a parole officer (Giancarlo Espositio) to life at a halfway house. Sherry's well-intentioned brother (Brad William Henke) and sister-in-law (Bridget Barkan) have been raising Alexis, and the girl's discomfort with her unknown Mom is palpable. This relationship is at the heart of the film; I have no idea how Laurie Collyer directed young Ryan Simpkins, but the scenes between Sherry and Alexis crackle with a wonderful verite energy.
Far more trite are the scenes of Sherry trading sex for a post-jail job opportunity and hooking up with the boss at her halfway house (Rio Hackford). Every man in SherryBaby wants something sexual from Sherry except her brother, and that includes her father (Sam Bottoms) in a plot line that's picked up then abandoned. But, SherryBaby is really about the vulnerability of its main character. The movie is a success because of Gyllenhaal's raw and emotionally pinpoint performance. There's a reason (more than one, actually) why I added her name to the header of this blog.