Reel Shorts | I Smile Back



A woman dealing with substantial pain, tries to shake her demons and hold it together for the sake of her husband and children in the numbing drama, I Smile Back.

From the start, Laney (Sarah Silverman) is a woman in pain. As her idyllic life with her loving husband, Bruce (Josh Charles) and two children flash through her mind, Laney is in a pit of despair and trying to dull the pain. While the reason has not been established, her alcoholic behavior, which consist of constant glasses of vodka as well as lines of cocaine that she snorts, indicates that all is not well in her world.

For Laney, life is a constant balancing act, playing the good wife and mother with her destructive behavior that threatens to undermine her family and her life. While she makes a good attempt, bad things are always hovering in the periphery. Things as routine as dropping her kids off to school turn sour after she fails to read a notice the school sent home requiring parents accompanying their kids to wear adult identification tags. Laney numbs the pain of that rejection by sleeping with a neighbor’s husband, Donny (Thomas Sadoski).

Increasingly, she attempts to hide her erratic behavior with damning effects. The breaking point occurs when on an alcohol and drug-fueled binge, Laney finds herself on her daughter’s bedroom floor, masturbating with her teddy bear next to her sleeping child. Unable to muster the strength to walk to her bedroom, she crawls into the arms of her husband and the next morning she is off to rehab.

Initially hesitant and withdrawn, Laney slowly finds solace and a sounding board with therapist, Dr. Page (Terry Kinney). He helps her get to the root of her problem, which largely revolve around being abandoned by her father when she was nine. His absence has made her question why people love one another when nothing is forever. That revelation hangs over her psyche, and this film, as a result.

For awhile, it appears that Laney has put her demons behind her but an ill-advised trip to a life insurance conference with Bruce places her in a compromising position and brings all of her issues rushing back to her in an emotional tsunami that puts everything at risk.

Often it is noted that some of the best dramatic actors are comedians and Silverman proves that point once again. Her performance as a woman dancing on the edge of a razor is heartbreaking and absolutely stunning. Leaving the theater dazed and confused, Silverman’s ability to give so much of her self in this character is almost too much to bear. You want to hug her and ensure her that all will be alright but in the back of your mind, you may not believe it yourself.

Written by Amy Koppelman and Paige Dylan, this story of a woman with seemingly everything but is immersed in depression makes you feel. Whether it is despair, sadness or regret, Silverman not only makes you but almost DEMANDS it. Director Adam Salky moves the story along in the classic fashion of stories of broken people such as The Days of Wine and Roses and for more contemporary audiences, When A Man Loves A Woman.

It is often said that love is enough but what happens when a loving husband can’t save his emotionally-drowning wife? I Smile Back is wonderful examination of a broken soul and Silverman will take your breath away channeling her deep pain.

Grade: B