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Review: I Smile Back

Let’s not mince words: I Smile Back is devastating. But the devastation wrought from the film may lack the catharsis necessary to wring the emotional output to fully appreciate the film.

Let’s not also mince words: I Smile Back features a fantastic performance from Sarah Silverman. The comedienne has hinted at such depth in performances in Take This Waltz and Masters of Sex. But the film only truly takes off because of Silverman. Otherwise, it veers dangerously close to overdosing on pain. It’s a really rough ride, emotionally draining.

But outside of Silverman, a few choice moments from Josh Charles, and surprise reveal, we are left to suffer alongside her character Laney. While this film is not, say, Cake, the drugs and the depression and the self-destructive tendencies just end up feeling draining.

The pluck and resilience exhibited by Silverman, subtly mixing in a few funny moments early on in the film mask the typical family uncomfortableness that we have seen time and again. Director Adam Salky and the two credited writers seem to be navigating familiar terrain, but the performances at times serve to elevate the at times very standard material. In fact, parts of the film seem to be almost lifted from the Reese Witherspoon vehicle from last year’s TIFF, Wild. But although I Smile Back suffers from a scene where the title is explained in far too literal terms, the pain and suffering are front and centre. Watch and beware.

[star v=3]