Comedian and Actress Sarah Silverman is mostly known for her over the top humor.  Her work always seems to get extreme reactions.  People either love it or hate it.  I am a part of the “love it” camp as she is one of my favorite people in the world!  I admire her fearlessness in her personal life as well as in her art.  So when I heard that she was leading a film that deals with mental illness and sexual and drug addiction I was very intrigued! 


“I Smile Back” is the story of Laney Brooks, a middle aged Wife and Mother who appears to have the perfect suburban life. However, just beneath the façade lie depression and disillusionment that send her careening into a secret world of reckless compulsion.  Seemingly trying to fill a void in her life she engages in drug abuse and with sexual encounters outside of her marriage.  Now, with the destruction of her family looming, and temptation everywhere, Laney makes one last desperate attempt at redemption.

From the moment the film begins it smacks you in the face with how real and raw it is.  It feels as though you are a fly on the wall in the home of a family that is slowly falling apart.  Sarah Silverman’s performance is so captivating yet seems so effortless.  Even though I’ve seen almost every movie she has been in, It was easy for me to get lost her in character.  Josh Charles who plays her husband delivers an equally impressive performance providing balance to the chaos in the film.  

Some of the scenes were so bizarre and disturbing that the audience was not sure how to react to them.  During the screening that I attended people where awkwardly laughing through out the film.  Even though there were things in the film that was intended to humorous, some of the scenes were not.  I interpret people laughing through the disturbing scenes as a way to not deal with how truly upsetting they actually are.  Either way these scenes certainly stir up a lot of emotions.


Another thing I really liked about the film is that it doesn’t try to tell you how to feel about the events that take place.  Your own personal experiences will determine how you feel about the actions of the characters.  Whether or not the viewer or someone in the viewer’s life has gone through depression, drug addiction, or sexual addiction will completely shape the viewers reactions to not only the Laney Brooks character but also the role of her husband who is doing what he thinks is best in response to her actions.  Most films that tackle any of those subject matters tend to clearly illustrate how the viewer is supposed to feel about what is taking place.  It is refreshing and impressive that this film does not.

A partial SPOILER is that just like real life the film doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending.  I was so glad that they made this choice instead of the predictable one.  Or maybe based on my own life experiences I think it doesn’t have a happy ending and someone else will.  That’s part of the genius of this film!


Overall I thought this film was incredible!  I hate to throw around the world “flawless” but I can’t think of anything about the film that needs to be improved upon.  As a Sarah Silverman fan I am proud to her take on and shine in this role!  And as a fan of cinematic story telling I applaud director Adam Salky and writers Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman for creating a compelling and uncompromising film!


I Smile Back Review


by James H. Carter II


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