Time Out says
With so many young actresses seemingly more concerned about their next cosmetics contract, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s commitment to her craft and willingness to take risks proves refreshing indeed. Here she’s a messed-up, working-class single mum in a film that could so easily have turned desperately synthetic but, thanks also to first-time writer-director Laurie Collyer’s astute handling, works rather well. Kicking heroin and getting out of prison are the easy bit for Gyllenhaal’s 23-year-old Sherry Swanson as she returns to her New Jersey home town only to stumble in re-establishing maternal bonds with the small daughter she left in the care of her brother and his wife. The challenge of job-hunting and staying on the right side of her parole officer only add to the load, and since Sherry spent most of her adolescence seriously out of it, she’s not really equipped to negotiate this testing path. Meanwhile, the streets offer temptation aplenty to lead her chemically astray…
The movie sidesteps the pitfalls of penny-plain soap opera or melodramatic grandstanding, finding an unshowy through-line that’s deftly attuned to the story’s everyday surroundings yet never underestimates the aching churn of emotions as Sherry’s abrasive neediness keeps pushing the possibility of better times even further away. Collyer’s obviously very skilled at creating an atmosphere in which her actors thrive, since Gyllenhaal runs the full repertoire from calculating party girl to poignant vulnerability, tough-guy stalwart Danny Trejo shines as a mellow drugs counsellor, and the undervalued Giancarlo Esposito delivers tough-love law enforcement. All of them serve an involving, truthful story, eschewing grand gestures to focus on the regenerative potency of small victories.
Cast and crew