i_smile_backThere’s nothing funny about depression. It’s as serious a condition as any other medical issue and just like having the flu or cancer or anything else, people just can’t “be happy and get over it” like they’re so often encouraged to do. Not only does it affect the person with the illness but it can seriously impact those around them as well for many and various reasons.

That’s the story of I Smile Back. Sarah Silverman plays Laney, a married mother of two who suffers from some form of depression. She has a variety of self-destructive bad habits as a result that threaten the family around her, despite the love they show her and which she has for them, a love she’s sometimes just incapable of showing.

The Posters

It’s a simple poster that just shows Silverman lying on a bed, her face toward the camera. Just below the title treatment is the copy “Love desperately, live recklessly,” which seems to be Laney’s unofficial mantra. The film’s main cast is listed at the very top and in between that and the title are a few critic pull quotes praising the movie and Silverman’s performance.

The Trailers

The first and only trailer starts by showing the seemingly happy life that Silverman’s character has. She has a loving husband, good kids and everything going for her. But then the tone shifts and we see there’s a darkness hiding under the surface. We see she’s off her medications, has some very serious self-destructive tendencies and is otherwise in some way unstable.

It’s a very effective trailer that is obviously anchored by Silverman, who looks like she gives a ridiculously moving performance in this dramatic role. She conveys, at least in this trailer, a wide array of emotions and complexities and, if nothing else, creates a portrait that we want to get a more substantial look at.

Online and Social

The key art is recreated on the opening page of the film’s official website, which immediately encourages you to watch the trailer again.

Moving on, “Videos” has the trailer as well as a clip from the movie showing just how disorganized Silverman’s character is as she fumbles her way through the first day of school with her kids. “Story” has a quick writeup of the film’s story. “Cast” and “Filmmakers” have bios and career histories of those involved in the movie’s making. There are five stills in the “Gallery.”


The last few sections are all about singing the film’s praises. So “Awards” shows the film festivals where the movie has won some sort of prize or award and “Reviews” has brief quotes from positive reviews that have already appeared for the movie, usually from one of those festivals. As usual, though, there are no links to read the full reviews.

The Facebook page for the film is a lot more news-filled than other recent pages, mixing in links to interviews – primarily with Silverman – with the images showing off key critic quotes, clips and other material.

Twitter isn’t that different, mostly in that it’s Retweeting media stories, critic’s reviews and other positive comments about the movie. Instagram focuses on the stills with critical blurbs overlayed on them along with a few other candid shots of the cast and crew from premieres, media photo shoots and so on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was no advertising on TV or elsewhere that I could find or was aware of.

Media and Publicity

The movie had its official coming out at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won a few accolades and garnered positive buzz among critics, particularly for Silverman’s performance.

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Silverman of course was the key to the publicity part of the campaign. Features like this one focused on how she’s always been much more multi-faceted than most people might think, making a foray into into a straight dramatic film surprising to some but less so to others. Other interviews would basically say that yes, this is a dramatic turn but she’s still funny in a way that made it sound like someone was afraid Silverman would be a turnoff if she weren’t normalized in some way. Still others would focus on the actress’ own experiences with depression and how that informed her performance here.

Following a premiere screening the talent involved would talk about the origins of the movie and Charles would praise Silverman’s performance, which he said dove into some “icy waters.”


It’s a fine line the marketing team has been walking with the campaign. The easy route – and deceptive one – would be to find the eight moments from the movie where Silverman is laughing or doing something funny and use them to try and sell it as maybe a dark comedy or some such. But I don’t feel like they did that, instead really focusing on this being her first big dramatic movie role.

It still obviously makes a lot of sense just from a publicity point of view to have her make the talk-show rounds and do her usual schtick – let Sarah be Sarah – but the more formal part of the campaign doesn’t shy away (at least too much) from showing that it’s a much darker, more serious turn for the comedian. It’s not a huge campaign but it gets that job done.