I Smile Back

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I Smile Back
I Smile Back poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAdam Salky
Screenplay by
  • Paige Dylan
  • Amy Koppelman
Based onI Smile Back
by Amy Koppelman
Produced by
CinematographyEric Lin
Edited byTamara Meem
Music byZack Ryan
  • Egoli Tossell Film
  • Koppelman/Levien
Distributed byBroad Green Pictures
Release dates
  • January 25, 2015 (2015-01-25) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • October 23, 2015 (2015-10-23) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States

I Smile Back is a 2015 American drama film directed by Adam Salky and based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Amy Koppelman, who wrote the screenplay with Paige Dylan. The film stars Sarah Silverman as an upper-middle-class wife and mother struggling with mental illness and addiction. The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2015.[1] It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 16, 2015.[2] The film was released in a limited release on October 23, 2015, by Broad Green Pictures.[3]


In a nice home in suburban New York, homemaker Laney Brooks snorts a white powdered drug in the bathroom while her husband Bruce plays outside with their young children, Eli and Janey. Laney remembers arguing with Bruce about their new dog. Later, Eli wakes from a nightmare and Laney comforts him.

As Bruce gets ready for work in the morning, Laney eyes the bathroom medicine cabinet, then prepares the children's lunches. She drives them to school and has a confrontation with the traffic guard. She greets her friend Susan and is stopped by another guard for not having her ID. She reluctantly waves goodbye to her children and drives away, resentfully mocking the school guard.

At a hotel, she has sex with Susan's husband Donny, then chides him afterward, telling him love means nothing. She showers as he sleeps and takes cash from his wallet as she leaves. She misses the exit driving back to school. At dinner, Laney drinks vodka from a wine glass and responds angrily when Eli relates a school friend's opinions. At bedtime she reminds Eli of his upcoming piano recital, then argues again with Bruce about their dog, dreading its eventual death. She phones Eli's friend's mother, curses at her and hangs up. She drinks more vodka, downs pills and snorts powder, then wanders into a sleeping Janey's bedroom. Lying on the rug, she clutches Janey's teddy bear, writhing and sobbing. She crawls down the hall and collapses.

Bruce finds her and drives her to a rehabilitation facility, where she argues with the staff and dry heaves in the toilet. Later, Dr. Page tells her about all the drugs detected in her system. Missing is any trace of her lithium prescription. She tells him of her abandonment by her father, Roger. Laney's family visits her for lunch. She notices Eli has developed a tic, and she tries to confess and apologize to Bruce, but he rebuffs her. Later, she tells Dr. Page she wants to smile again. He tells her to take her medication and have faith in herself.

Home from rehab, Laney makes a cake with her family. The power goes out and they sing and dance by candlelight. Later, Laney and Bruce meet with a counselor regarding Eli's anxiety. Eli worries he too will have to go to rehab. Laney and Bruce later go to Donny's restaurant for a birthday dinner for Susan, who is now pregnant, where Laney insults another couple.

Later, Laney accompanies Bruce to a seminar in a hotel near Roger's home. While Bruce attends the conference, she takes a cab to Roger's house, meeting his young daughter Daisy for the first time. She learns of her grandmother's untimely death. Roger offers excuses for abandoning his family. Laney cries in the taxi back, calls Bruce and gets no answer.

Walking into a bar, she flirts with the bartender and tells him to "keep 'em coming." At the hotel, Bruce packs. Laney enters, apologizing for missing dinner. Tired of her lies, he pushes her against the wall and shouts at her. Leaving, he tells her that the children will continue staying with his sister as he doesn't trust her and that he will meet them all at Eli's recital.

Bruce arrives at the recital as Eli begins playing the piano, hesitantly at first but more confidently as he continues. All applaud when he finishes. Back at home, Laney praises Eli, then retreats to the bathroom to snort from her hidden drug stash. Bruce, Eli and Janey find her there, bleeding from her nose. Laney leaves in an SUV. Reason gone, she closes her eyes, takes her hands off the wheel and drives through a red light unscathed. She drives to Donny's restaurant, asking him for something to calm her down, but he refuses. Susan calls and he leaves. Laney then takes pills from his desk and downs them. She leaves and visits a bar. Ordering a beer, she flirts with a man and they have sex in the basement. When she drunkenly taunts him, he slams her face twice into a stone wall and empties her wallet, leaving her unconscious. Later, she awakens caked in blood and takes a cab home.

In the predawn glow, she prepares lunches, still battered and bloody. She hugs the whimpering dog and notices Bruce staring at her from the upstairs landing. Her face cracking, she shuffles out of the house and shuts the door.



The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2015.[4] Shortly after, Broad Green Pictures acquired distribution rights to the film.[5] The film was selected to screen at the Jerusalem Film Festival on July 11, 2015.[6] and the Deauville Film Festival on September 6, 2015,[7] as well as the Toronto International Film Festival on September 16, 2015,[8] the Oldenburg International Film Festival on September 19, 2015,[9] and the Chicago International Film Festival on October 16, 2015. The film was released on October 23, 2015, in a limited release.[10]

Home media[edit]

I Smile Back was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on February 23, 2016.[11]


Critical reception[edit]

I Smile Back received mixed reviews from critics, with universal praise for Silverman's performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 49% approval rating, based on 71 reviews, with an average rating of 5.76/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "I Smile Back serves as a powerful showcase for Sarah Silverman's dramatic range, but fails to surround her committed performance with a movie worthy of its depth".[12] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13] IndieWire reviewer Katie Walsh gave strong praise to Silverman's performance in the film.[14]


Silverman was nominated for Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards.[15]

Year Award Category Recipients Result
2016 Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Sarah Silverman Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Sarah Silverman Nominated


  1. ^ Foundas, Scott (January 25, 2015). "'I Smile Back' Review : Sarah Silverman Digs Deep". Variety.com. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  2. ^ Unknown, Unknown (2015). "I Smile Back". Archived from the original on November 30, 2015. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  3. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (23 July 2015). "Broad Green Dates Three: 'I Smile Back', 'The Dark Horse', Malick's 'Knight Of Cups'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Sarah Silverman in 'I Smile Back': Sundance Review". Hollywood Reporter. 2015-01-26. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  5. ^ "Broad Green Pictures Acquires Sarah Silverman Drama 'I Sm". Indiewire. 2014-11-27. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  6. ^ "I Smile Back". Jff.org.il. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  7. ^ "'I Smile Back' Photocall - 41st Deauville American Film Festival - Pictures". Zimbio. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  8. ^ "I Smile Back". TIFF.net. 2015-07-24. Archived from the original on 2015-11-30. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  9. ^ Kastelan, Karsten (2015-09-20). "Sarah Silverman wins Oldenburg best acting honor for 'I Smile Back'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  10. ^ "I Smile Back | In Theatres October 23, 2015 | Broad Green Pictures". Broadgreen.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  11. ^ "I Smile Back DVD and Blu-ray". releases.com. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  12. ^ "I Smile Back (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  13. ^ "I Smile Back Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  14. ^ Walsh, Katie. "Sundance Review: Sarah Silverman's Tremendous Performance Powers Addiction Drama 'I Smile Back'". Indiewire. Archived from the original on 24 October 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  15. ^ "SAG Awards 2015: Nominations in full". BBC News. 9 December 2015.

External links[edit]