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While struggling with her own trauma, a woman in a chronic-pain support group (Jennifer Aniston) begins to investigate the suicide of a fellow group member (Anna Kendrick) and develops an unexpected relationship with the woman’s husband (Sam Worthington), in this highly anticipated drama also starring William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman.

A film about pain, understanding, and moving ahead in the wake of heartbreak, director Daniel Barnz's edgy and poignant Cake features a courageous, career-defining performance from Jennifer Aniston.

Visibly scarred, physically fragile, and emotionally empty — it's clear that Claire (Jennifer Aniston) is suffering. It's also clear that she's a bitch. Alone in her midcentury LA bungalow, Claire has driven away all her friends except for the one she pays: her housekeeper and de facto caregiver Silvana (Adriana Barraza). Left by her husband, rejected even by her chronic-pain support group, she watches her reasons to live fade away one by one — until everything changes with the suicide of Nina (Anna Kendrick), a fellow support-group member. They barely knew one another when Nina was alive, but as Nina keeps appearing in Claire's dreams and Percocet-fuelled hallucinations, Claire becomes consumed with curiosity about her death. How did Nina know she was ready to die? What was she thinking in her final moments? These questions give Claire a new-found — if slightly disturbing — sense of purpose, and with the compassionate and refreshingly candid Silvana in tow, she unapologetically inserts herself into the lives of the husband (Sam Worthington) and son Nina left behind. But her search for answers will yield wholly unexpected results.

Screenwriter Patrick Tobin has created a cast of genuinely sympathetic (though not always pleasant) characters; Barnz's sensitive directing, in tandem with Rachel Morrison's intimate and arresting cinematography, reveals the depths of complexity in them all. This gentle but powerful film reminds us that even when life seems most full of pain, it might yet have something sweet to offer.

KERRI CRADDOCK

Daniel Barnz

Daniel Barnz was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Yale. He directed the short film The Cutting Room (01) and the features Phoebe in Wonderland (08), Beastly (11), and Won't Back Down (12). Cake (14) is his latest feature and Festival debut.

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