I SMILE BACK is a dark tale of a suburban NYC housewife and mother, Laney (Elaine), attempting to deal with depression and fears of abandonment. She longs to be the perfect mother, ever present for her own children. In numbing her emotional pain, she is actually not present for her son, daughter, or husband.
Early in the film, we witness her escalating use of drugs, alcohol and sexual behaviors to find relief from her fears and anxiety. Following attempts at rehab, there are spontaneous loving moments when we catch a glimpse of the fun and caring person who is the truly beautiful Laney. She continues on medication to treat mental illness. However, the work of dealing with the 'why' of her self-destructive behaviors proves difficult. Accepting the internal lies of worthlessness, Laney relapses. What she most fears appears to be a self fulfilling prophecy. Sarah Silverman excels in the portrayal of Laney, a woman trying to live beyond the pain of her childhood and her own inner demons. Silverman conveys her character's inner turmoil and tenderness with acerbic wit. Yet, it is always "Laney" who fills the screen.
This film accurately conveys the heartbreaking forward and backward course of recovery and dual diagnosis. This film provides no quick easy answer to this condition. The hideous voice of self loathing in our human experience can become the only voice one hears. A voice of truth is needed to shed light into the dark places of the soul and mind. We need to remind each other that the loving God who created all peoples to be in relationship with him (and with each other) will never forsake us.