I Smile Back

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I Smile Back
I Smile Back poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAdam Salky
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Paige Dylan
  • Amy Koppelman
Based onI Smile Back
by Amy Koppelman
Music byZack Ryan
CinematographyEric Lin
Edited byTamara Meem
  • Egoli Tossell Film
  • Koppelman/Levien
Distributed byBroad Green Pictures
Release date
  • 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, Laney Brooks (Sarah Silverman) snorts white powder in the bathroom while her husband Bruce plays outside with their young children, Eli & Janey. Laney remembers getting takeout food & arguing with Bruce about their new dog. She examines herself in the mirror & submerges in the bathtub... Eli wakes from a nightmare. Laney comforts him. As Bruce gets ready for work, Laney eyes the bathroom medicine cabinet, then prepares the children's lunches. She drives them to school & has a confrontation with the traffic guard. She greets her friend, Susan & is stopped by another guard for not having her i.d. She reluctantly waves goodbye to her children & 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 & 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 & is at first funny, then angry 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 her & hangs up. She drinks more vodka, downs pills & snorts powder, then wanders into a sleeping Janey's bedroom. She clutches Janey's teddy bear, lying on the rug, writhing & sobbing. She crawls down the hall & collapses where Bruce finds her. Bruce drives Laney to a rehab facility. She argues with the staff & dry heaves in the toilet. Later, Dr Page tells her of all the drugs in her system. Missing was 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's increasing disassociation & wants to confess & apologize to Bruce. He rebuffs her. Later, she tells Dr Page she wants to smile again. He tells her to take her meds & have faith in herself.

Home from rehab, Laney makes a cake with her family. The power goes out & they sing & dance by candlelight. Later, Laney & Bruce meet with a counselor regarding Eli's anxiety. Eli worries he too will have to go to rehab. Laney & Bruce later go to Donny's restaurant for dinner with him & Susan, who is now pregnant. Donny is patronizing, angering Laney. She insults their guests. Later, Laney accompanies Bruce to a seminar in a hotel near Roger's home. While Bruce attends the conference, she takes a cab to Rogers's house, meeting his young child Daisy for the first time. She learns of her grandmother's untimely death. Roger repeats his excuses. She tells him to make it work this time. She cries in the taxi back, calls Bruce & gets no answer. Walking into a bar, she flirts with the bartender & tells him to keep 'em coming... At the hotel room, Bruce packs. Laney enters, apologizing for missing dinner. Tired of her lies, he pushes her against the wall. Leaving, he tells her the children will be with his sister & he will meet them all at school for Eli's recital. Later, Laney enters her empty house, wandering & sleepless.

Bruce arrives at the recital as Eli begins playing the piano, hesitantly at first but stronger as he continues. All applaud when he finishes. Back at home, the family praises Eli. Laney retreats to the bathroom to snort from her hidden stash. Bruce, Eli & Janey find her there, wasted & bleeding from her nose. Laney leaves in an SUV. Reason gone, she closes her eyes, takes her hands off the wheel & drives through a red light, unscathed. She drives to Donny's restaurant, asking him for something to calm her down. Susan calls & he leaves. Laney then takes pills from his desk, downs them. She leaves & enters a bar. Ordering a beer, she flirts with a tough looking man. They have sex in the basement. She drunkenly taunts him & he slams her face twice into the stone wall. He empties her wallet, leaving her unconscious. Later, she awakes caked in blood, takes a cab home. In the predawn glow, she prepares lunches one last time, still battered & bloody. She scans the room; the dog whimpers. She hugs it, notices Bruce staring from the upstairs landing. Her face cracking, she shuffles out & 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 69 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. "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. 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 21 July 2019.
  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.

External links[edit]