Movie review by
Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
Sherrybaby Movie Poster Image
Gyllenhaal shines in gritty, haunting drug drama.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 96 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sherry uses her sexuality to get what she needs. She also struggles to stay clean and sober.


It's implied that her father sexually molested her. Sherry and another girl at Genesis House scream at each other and fight. As Sherry's walking across the street, you can hear a gunshot.


Sherry has sex with two different guys and is often partially naked. Her bare breasts are often visible. She talks about having a shaved pubic region and encourages one of the men to perform oral sex on her. She performs oral sex to get the job she wants. Her father gropes her breasts. She talks about having been a stripper when she was 16.


Considerable cursing, including "motherf---er," "f--k," "bitch," "s--t," "damn," "bulls--t," "c--t," and "badass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sherry chain smokes. Sherry and her sister-in-law smoke together. Sherry drinks beer and liquor and uses heroin. Sherry and her brother talk about a friend who died of a drug overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film depicts drug addiction and one woman's struggle to stay clean. Sherry drinks beer and liquor and uses heroin after having been clean for years. The drug use is not shown as glamorous. Sherry, a former stripper, is also half-naked much of the time and is shown having sex with two different men. She's also the victim of childhood sexual abuse, which may be especially upsetting for people who've experienced the same thing. Sherry attempts to kidnap her daughter.

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What's the story?

When single mom and drug addict Sherry Swanson (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gets released from prison and is returned to her hometown, all she can think about is getting her daughter (Ryan Simpkins) back from her brother and sister-in-law who have been raising her. But after being locked up and fighting to stay sober, it's no easy task, especially when she's still haunted by the demons of a tortured childhood and by breathtaking immaturity. When she finds that her sister-in-law is coaching her daughter to call her Sherry instead of Mommy, and when she is treated badly by her father, Sherry loses it. Can she stay sober? And can she do what she needs to do to stay close to her daughter and finally learn how to be a good mother?

Is it any good?

There's a reason Gyllenhaal was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. What starts as the depiction of a tough woman who's heavy on the sexiness grows into a complex portrait of a woman trying to learn how to live and how to recover -- not just from drugs but from lots of other things, too. You can see on Gyllenhaal's face that her Sherry is a woman with a lot of things on her mind, who's overwhelmed and in despair. That's no small thing to communicate with a look, and Gyllenhaal does it with an authenticity that's staggering.

If anyone needed a reason to stay away from drugs and alcohol, SHERRYBABY is a great example of what substance abuse, combined with self-loathing, sexism, and sexual abuse, can do to a woman's life. If there's a regret in this film, it's that Gyllenhaal's breasts are her costars. She's naked so often in this film that her natural sex appeal -- though it makes sense for the film -- runs the risk of making her sad and desperate life seem glamorous to teens unable to sense the difference.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how drug and alcohol addiction have affected Sherry's life. Do drugs and alcohol seem appealing in this film? What about casual sex? Is Maggie Gyllenhaal sexy as Sherry? Why or why not?

Movie details

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