The Face Behind the Smile
The Face Behind the Smile

Directed by

Matthew Vaughn

Produced by

Matthew Vaughn
Ridley Scott
Christopher Columbus

Screenplay by

Matthew Vaughn
Ridley Scott
Christopher Columbus

Narrated by

Ariel Winter


Asa Butterfield
Ariel Winter
Ramona Marquez
Carey Mulligan
Maisie Williams
Christian Bale
Arthur Bowen
Elle Fanning
Daisy Ridley
Christian Bale
David Tennant
Keira Knightley
Georgie Henley

Music by

James Newton Howard


Tat Radcliffe

Edited by

Melanie Oliver


IFC Films
Columbia Pictures

Distributed by

20th Century Fox

Release date(s)

20th November 2017

Running time

148 minutes


United Kingdom


$3 million

Box Office

$872.3 million


The Face Behind the Smile is a 2017 British-American romantic coming-of-age drama film directed, co-produced and co-written by Matthew Vaughn, written and produced by Christopher Columbus and produced by Ridley Scott. It stars Asa Butterfield and Ariel Winter as an estranged brother and sister who are reunited and go to the same school. The boy must care for his sister, who suffers from a severe case of selective mutism, in that she is incapable of speaking to boys. The storyline generally follows both siblings as they try and cope with the situation that comes with the sister's condition. It also stars Ramona Marquez, Carey Mulligan, Maisie Williams, Christian Bale, Rupert Grint, Angel Coulby, Tom Burke, David Tennant, Keira Knightley and Georgie Henley. It is a sequel to Prodigy, which came out a year before, but it takes place at least a year after the events of the film.

Matthew Vaughn originally did not plan to make a sequel to his film, but realised the major success it was and the eagerness of some actors in reprising their roles - he wrote the script and cast Ariel Winter and Asa Butterfield in the lead roles. The film was brought into production by Vaughn on 9th of February 2017 and took twenty-five days to produce. It was released on 20th November 2017. It was a tremendous box-office success, grossing $872 million on a budget of $3 million. It received primarily positive reactions from critics, with praise towards the chemistry and performances of Butterfield, Marquez, Fanning and Winter, the direction, score and significantly darker tone and subject in comparison to the prequel.


Eighteen-year-old Corey Granger leaves Mr. Grey's office after getting into a fight with another student. At the same time, Casey Granger sits in a white room in front of a (off-screen) psychiatrist, and struggles to speak when the psychiatrist places a photograph of a boy on the table in front of them and tells her to speak directly to it.

Corey is accosted several times by James Grey, who utilises his stepdaughter Melanie as a girl who had severe difficulties in her behaviour, and how he was able to eventually understand her difficulties. Corey resents being categorised in this way, and cites that the absence of his father has been used against him for years and he has become sick and tired of it. Becoming weary of Corey's aggression, James lets him go with a warning, and Corey leaves with many pupils leering at him. He receives a phone call from his guardian Lena, who tells him that she has found his half-sister Casey. Corey is visibly shocked to hear this, and demands to know when she will arrive, but before this can happen he is waylaid by Skylar Pembroke, a Goth who has befriended him and who defended him in the fight. He tells her that he has a half-sister and she is overjoyed to hear it, thinking that he ought to have a little more company. Later that afternoon, Casey arrives at Lena's house and is silently introduced to her mother and to Corey, who is shocked to see how similar they are. When he tries to make conversation with Casey, she can only make rasping noises to him, and it is revealed that she suffers from selective mutism - she is almost incapable of speaking to boys.

Casey remains completely silent throughout the evening, only interacting with smiles and nods and nervous hand gestures. Corey asks her to at least tell him how old she is, and finally when they are in opposing rooms, she whispers weakly through the wall how old she is. Corey smiles at this, considering it a small step of progress. The next day, Casey is introduced to the school environment, and produces a large notepad from which she communicates with Corey in class. She asks him to speak for her from time to time - this attracts the attention of many pupils, who find her dependency on her half-brother entertaining. When in maths, Casey struggles to vocally answer questions even though she clearly knows the answer. Corey tells her through the notepad to try answering with her eyes closed, and she almost succeeds before Ash Galavan throws a ruler at her from behind, causing her to curl up into a ball and whimper. Corey violently defends her when Ash proceeds to taunt Casey, and comforts her while she whimpers, but she pushes him away. Later on, Casey visits an archery range, and the owner Joe is impressed by her talent. Corey watches her, and asks her how she learned, and she tells him she learned it from her father. They are approached by Skylar, whom Casey proves able to talk to, and Skylar makes her laugh even, much to Corey's amazement.

Casey is approached by Georgina, the social worker who brought her to the UK, and over the next few weeks both brother and sister have sessions with her, so that their relationship is monitored. It is revealed that Casey had an excruciatingly harsh childhood, involving gang violence, but Casey's selective mutism has been a consistent problem. Casey and Skylar start striking up a stronger friendship, and Casey draws sketches of her in the notepad, which is praised by Corey, but is interpreted as a romantic interest by everyone else. Casey then meets Regina Knightley, Corey's best friend, who encourages her to continue drawing, but is disturbed when Casey's drawings become increasingly violent and sorrowful, depicting a fight scene between two shadows. Regina brings them to Corey, who keeps them a secret. He does confide in Georgina, who realises that Casey has a secret. At the same time, Melanie Norrington returns to town and attends the funeral of her neighbour, Stephanie Valeska, giving a tearful eulogy and verbally remembering the inspiring words Stephanie had given her when she was in school. Her mother Susan, who is using a walking stick, almost cries at the eulogy and is comforted by James, her husband. Later on, Melanie eavesdrops on James talking about Corey, and becomes fascinated.

When Corey persuades his initially extremely reluctant sister to go to a party, they meet with Regina, Corey's best friend, and there Casey consumes a considerable amount of vodka and throws up over a stranger's car. When the owner comes out and snaps at her, Casey is unable to retort, but Corey and Regina ward him off. When they are alone, Casey apologises, but Corey convinces her to forget about it. Corey phones their guardian, Lena, and reports that she had had too much to drink, so Lena suggests they return home, but Casey begins to get on with Regina and is reluctant to leave. It is only when more boys begin to arrive at the party and it becomes overcrowded that Casey, instinctively fearing that they would sexualise her, demands that they leave. Regina offers to walk Casey home herself, but Corey insists that they walk home together. On the journey, Casey contemplates flying above the clouds, which Corey learns to be a common habit of her's. After watching her help out a girl with her mathematics without even speaking, Skylar spends lunchtime entertaining Casey into laughter, until Ash arrives and threatens both girls. Ash's aggression triggers painful memories in Casey, who hisses at him, frightening the boy into fleeing. Corey witnesses all of this from a distance and presses it to Casey later on, and Casey refuses to talk about it.

Skylar joins the two of them on their regular trip to an archery range. At the range, Skylar outmatches both twins and Corey begins to realise that his sister is becoming increasingly closer with her new friend than with him. Regina wheedles this fear out of him and assures him that he is just being paranoid. Georgina agrees with this, as does Lena, and Casey finds it both heartening and entertaining that he worries about her in such a way. During a maths class, Casey manages to befriend a girl named Rosie Stamford, whom she begins to help with her equations, impressing Corey. Seeing that she is getting along so well, Ash antagonises her but is caught by Mr. Geering and accosted. Casey and Skylar talk and she voices that she feels sorry for her brother and his protectiveness of her, considering that he can't help but care about her. Ash confronts Corey later on about Casey's reclusive nature, only for Melanie Norrington to arrive and order him to leave. Shocked at meeting Melanie in the flesh, Corey strikes up a friendship with her and her boyfriend Jerome, and Melanie becomes fascinated by Casey, before insisting that the two of them meet. Casey is elated to meet a kindred spirit who suffered from a speech difficulty, and remembers seeing Melanie's speech on the television, but doesn't believe that even Melanie can help her.

Melanie is revealed to be working part-time in the school to help children with difficulties whenever she has a break from university. She encourages Corey to be more patient with Casey, since Melanie herself felt unreachable in her misery when she was at school. Corey takes Casey to a party, where she gets drunk with Skylar and throws up against a neighbour's car. The neighbour rages on her for this, prompting Skylar to stand up for a muted Casey. The resulting fight is broken up by Amy Carlyle, who outright threatens the neighbour into leaving them alone. Amy helps Casey recover before she is recognised as the sociopathic bully that the media reported being the nemesis of Melanie, causing Skylar to try and get her to go away, before Melanie arrives and vouches for Amy. The two former enemies are reunited for the first time in at least a year as a result of this, and Melanie is thrilled to learn that Amy is doing well for herself, but they are still clearly tense around one another. Skylar takes Casey to her house to recover, and the two of them bond considerably, until Casey kisses Skylar. The two of them share a tense moment before Skylar kisses her back; long into the kiss, Skylar takes her up to her room and starts to orally pleasure her, before Casey's bad memories are triggered again and she kicks Skylar away. Skylar, baffled by Casey's unpredictable behaviour, throws her out and Casey wanders the streets, where Corey finds her crying and muttering 'Who's daddy's little girl?'.

Skylar rushes to Lena's house to apologise for the night before, but Lena is furious and throws her out, only for Corey to sneak her into the house, up to Casey's room. Casey keeps them out of her room and barricades herself in, so Skylar climbs in through her window and begs for her forgiveness. Casey ignores her and closes the curtains on her, prompting Ash to throw stones at the window and mock her. Casey tells Amy about it, and Amy corners Ash in the nearby park, citing that she has contempt for the person she was and that she sees that person in Ash. When Ash proves spiteful and dismissive of her, she physically pins him against a slide and orders him to leave Casey alone. Terrified of Amy, Ash obeys, but Melanie, who saw the whole thing, is horrified. Amy walks home, crossing the street where she and Melanie fought three years ago. Melanie confesses that she has somewhat missed Amy and wished to properly reconcile with her. Amy tells her that it isn't necessary, since somebody else entirely needs their support.

Casey struggles to show her face in school the next day, outright ashamed of what she had become in Skylar's bedroom; she closes herself off from Corey, Regina and James, who notices that she has barely spoken a word to anyone at all. When Mrs Salvadore (the deputy head) receives complaints that Casey hisses at any teacher that tries to talk to her, James asks to see Corey and later Lena, desiring a rational explanation. Corey tells him that she spends hours in her room as it is, drawing, and she hasn't spoken about what happened between her and Skylar since it happened. When James tries to get Casey to talk on her own, she has a panic attack. Melanie visits Lena and asks to speak with Casey, using her experiences of people supporting her when she needed it to convince Casey that she isn't alone. Casey allows Melanie into her room and shows the pictures she has been drawing - they are a comic adaption of a confrontation scene from her past. Casey runs away from home while Melanie is distracted, only for Corey to anticipate where she will go and call James and Lena, who take her to see Georgina, despite the extremely violent protests from Casey.

Georgina and Casey's conversation happens off-screen and she explains to Corey, Skylar and Lena that Corey's parents ran away to America soon after Corey was born. Corey's mother died, so his father met another woman named Helena and gave birth to Casey, before he himself died after a heart attack. Helena, who was a failed journalist-turned-escort who abused Casey, inflicting sexual confusion on the child and convincing her that she was worthless. Casey's selective mutism was an unfortunate factor that caused her mother to abuse her. When a police officer arrived, having arrested someone that Casey's mother was escorting, Helena attacked him and engaged in the fight scene that Casey's drawings depict, before killing him. Casey watched her mother fight off two more officers before she was pursued into the decaying upper layers of the building, where the floor collapsed beneath her and she fell to her death, landing right in front of Casey. A common saying of her mother, to sexually confuse Casey, was 'who's daddy's little girl', and Casey had realised her homosexuality long ago, hiding it out of fear for years. Georgina assures Skylar, however, that Casey's affection for her is genuine.

While Casey continues to talk to Georgina, Corey admits to Skylar that he was jealous of how close she and Casey had become, whereas he had struggled to get a word out of her at first. Skylar tells him that an apology isn't necessary, since Casey is a wonderful, but troubled, person, and they both love her. Corey tries to speak to Casey, but finds that Casey's selective mutism has extended to him in her distress, causing him to develop a nervous breakdown. Amy chases after him and convinces him that Casey will come around, but Corey has become completely impatient with his half-sister, even though her past frightens and saddens him. She confesses that she acts out all the time because she wishes things were different, citing her threatening Ash as a prime example. Corey tells her that he never thought he could ever contemplate somebody who had bigger problems than he did, and Casey's arrival and her being evidently more complicated than he is has presented a situation he doesn't understand. Amy takes him to the road where she and Melanie battled, and tells him that she had entered a situation she couldn't understand at the time when she fought with Melanie, but now she thinks she's doing better since that fight. She likens this to Corey being a difficult, aggressive person before he had somebody he felt responsible for.

Casey doesn't want to see Skylar, but Corey convinces her to meet him in the park so that they can talk, but instead Skylar is revealed to be there. Casey initially turns to leave, before Skylar tells her that she loves her. Casey is shocked to hear this, and the two of them end up joking about the night in Skylar's room. Skylar tells her that she has never met somebody as interesting, or as wonderful, as Casey, and Casey admits that the pupils at school are the first people her age she's ever met, making both of them laugh. Skylar takes Casey to the archery range and challenges her, and the two of them have a lengthy competition in a successful attempt to cheer Casey up. Corey and Regina join them, and Casey playfully encourages them to kiss. The two of them spend the whole day in town, visiting the arcade and watching War for the Planet of the Apes, before going back to Lena's house for a drink. Casey fears getting drunk, before Skylar encourages it, and laughingly promises everyone that she won't even take off her shirt in front of Casey that night. After having too much to drink, Casey and Skylar end up dancing to ELO's All Over the World before encouraging Corey and Regina to dance to S Club 7's One Step Closer. After Corey and Regina have gone upstairs kissing, Skylar asks Casey if she was 'good' that night, eliciting laughter from Casey, who assures her that she was 'phenomenal', and telling her that her favourite thing about Skylar was that she 'always made her laugh'.

Casey falls asleep on the sofa and dreams about the day her mother was arrested, remembering the fights that ensued and how she had been hidden underneath the floorboards, leading to the belief that Helena was abusive and neglectful. She remembers boys in the care home she was sent to taunting her for her inability to speak to them, and the fact that she showed early signs of sexual confusion. She then dreams about her time with Skylar, and her love of her, but when then she dreams of being trapped in a glass house at night, and everyone she knows is surrounding her and laughing at her. She wakes up screaming and sobbing, and Skylar comforts her. Realising that there are still problems with Casey, Skylar and Corey ask Georgina if there was anything else she talked about, using the description of Casey's dream as leverage to see her. Georgina judges that Casey is terrified of being alone, since she still considers herself strange. Casey storms into the room while they are talking and openly resents being talked about like a charity case, even though she appreciates what they are trying to do for her. Casey cites her ambition to surpass her problems herself, and in class she starts speaking out, slowly overcoming her selective mutism, even though she tends to communicate still through the notepad with Corey. Taking Skylar as her girlfriend, she and her go to prom together and are chaperoned by James, who is pleased to see that a great deal of repairs have been made since Casey started.

Casey takes the comic adaption of her past and burns it, with the narration stating that she doesn't care about how other people stigmatise her for being unable to speak sometimes, because she's safer now than she had ever been with her mother in America. As the narration proceeds to explain that Casey and Corey have never kept any secrets from one another, and that Corey's relationship with Regina has blossomed considerably. Melanie and Amy join them, and watch the flames, as do Lena and Georgina. Casey narrates that she used to dream of flying, so that she was high above the clouds where her speech didn't matter - now, she says, Casey doesn't think that flying could feel half as good as this does.


  • Asa Butterfield as Corey Granger, Casey's half-brother with behavioural difficulties.
  • Ariel Winter as Casey Granger, Corey's half-sister, who has suffered since childhood from selective mutism, so she is unable to talk to boys. Casey has a variety of talents, but hides a tragic secret and her selective mutism leads to her being aggressive, difficult and capricious.
  • Ramona Marquez as Regina Knightley, Corey's best friend, classmate and confidante. She has a bubbly personality and is considered extremely compassionate, forever digging out people's insecurities with intent of helping her. Ramona Marquez commented on Regina that "I loved this character. I loved how, with these three characters, Regina seems like the kind of girl you'd love because she's fun to be around"
  • Carey Mulligan as Lena Killigan, Corey and Casey's guardian who has cared for Corey since he was six years old.
  • Maisie Williams as Melanie Norrington, a university student and training psychologist with a genius-level intellect. Maisie Williams expressed delight in revisiting the character, and being a supporting role didn't bother her - she said that the character's relevance to the film was her drawing on experiences and repaired mistakes from the previous film and using them for some good.
  • Elle Fanning as Skylar Pembroke, a misanthropic and cynical Goth whom Casey narrowly befriends, with a savagely pragmatic view on the situations found in schools. She is obsessed with Victorian literature, for example Dracula, but she subverts certain Gothic tropes (mainly the dark attire) and believes that people don't have to look like their stereotype to be a facet of it. fanning described her character as "the kind of girl who doesn't give a damn, until you see what she's like, at which point you realise she gives a damn about a whole lot"
  • Daisy Ridley as Georgina Santiago, the social worker that Casey and Corey go to on a weekly basis, with whom Corey confides his insecurities about his sister.
  • Andy Samberg as Jack Stein, one of the neighbours who works at the archery range where the twins frequent on the weekends. He works part-time as a teaching assistant.
  • Angel Coulby as Mrs. Jean Salvatore, the deputy head at the high school.
  • Arthur Bowen as Kevin Knightley, Amelia's younger brother.
  • Lino Facioli as Ash Galavan, a straightforward teacher's pet who tends to torment Casey for her selective mutism.
  • Rupert Grint as George Fincher, a maths teacher who has replaced the retired Dr. Sewell in the school.
  • Christian Bale as Mr. Joseph Larson, Corey and Casey's straightforward English teacher who realises the situations that they come into.
  • Caitlin Blackwood as Rosaline 'Rosa' Stamford, a girl in the same Maths class as Corey and Casey, whom Casey helps with the majority of her homework.
  • Tom Burke as Mr. Geering, the twins' maths teacher.
  • Jenna Coleman as Miss Henley, a music teacher.
  • David Tennant as Mr. James Grey, the headmaster and Melanie Norrington's stepfather, and Susan's husband.
  • Keira Knightley as Susan Grey, Melanie's mother and James' wife.
  • Freddie Highmore as Jerome Kendrick, Melanie's boyfriend.
  • Georgie Henley as Amelia 'Amy' Carlyle, Melanie's former nemesis who returns to the neighbourhood.
  • Judi Dench as Mrs Stephanie Valeska, an old friend and neighbour of Melanie's.
  • Brendan Gleeson as the neighbour.
  • Sarah Hyland as Judy, an old friend of Melanie's.
  • Hilary Swank as Helena, Casey's mother
  • Samuel L. Jackson as himself.
  • Matthew Vaughn cameos as a patient of Georgina's.


The film, in sharp alignment with its predecessor according to Vaughn, explores the major themes of adolescence and growing up. Vaughn stated "This film It explores the way in which people can feel so excruciatingly lonely, because they can't get their voice heard, or because they feel like people are going to laugh at them or hurt them if anybody ever knew about their feelings".

Unlike in Prodigy, in which Georgie Henley portrayed the main antagonist of the film, Vaughn openly decided that he would want to structure the film completely differently, wanting the central focus of the film to be the relationship between characters as opposed to the rivalry between two particular characters. He thought that 'Ariel Winter was perfect for the role, because she was totally different in her own way from everybody else when she was on screen', and that he had chosen Asa Butterfield based on the actor's proven ability to deliver a subtle dramatic performance.

A sense of uncertainty is injected into every scene between Casey and another character, especially her brother, meant to reflect the fact that she doesn't understand the world she lives in as well as everyone else, and the fact that nobody understands her. He chose the tagline of the film 'Nobody knows what it's like to be dead inside' to reflect the theme of uncertainty or loneliness that Casey presents. He intended for Casey to be homosexual from the beginning because it would make her feel lonelier, but at the same time make her transformation into an 'ordinary girl' more satisfying because homosexuality is far better accepted in the world. He did not intend to make a cultural statement against homosexuality, which he acknowledged would be a potential interpretation of the film.

When approached on the sexual themes of the film, Vaughn confessed that he risked controversy with certain audience categories, since the film had consistently more mature explorations of sexuality and identity than Prodigy did, and told them that he felt uncomfortable filming the 'bedroom scene', but persevered because he felt that it was crucial for the film. Asa Butterfield judged that he was a supporting character in his own mind, and that the film belonged to Ariel Winter as it was her coming-of-age film. Ariel Winter admitted that the bedroom scene was awkward for her, but also that she adored being around the other cast members and they made her more comfortable. Her constant presentation of a problem when there seems to be a solution to the previous one causes the audience to re-evaluate what her purpose in the film was - one would originally believe her purpose was to burden Corey's character into becoming a better person.



Very little of the film's plot was properly advertised except for the selective mutism of Casey and the fact that she and Corey were estranged. The cover, and promotional poster, of the film depicted Casey (with her face cut out of the picture) at a table with a notepad in front of her, indicating that the main focus of the film would be the character of Casey. It was mentioned by Vaughn in interviews that certain cast members from Prodigy would be reprising roles, but not in central roles. Vaughn decided on the title in direct reference to Casey, but also in reference to how she believes people see her - "they don't understand her, she thinks to herself - they can't see the face behind the smile, so they don't know her" and stated that this justified the marketing.

Box Office

The Face Behind the Smile grossed $1.6 million on its early releases in November in the United States - its release was a largely limited one. In comparison, it was released to a much wider audience in the United Kingdom and ended its opening weekend collectively with $204.6 million. As of December 5th 2017, The Face Behind the Smile has grossed a worldwide total of $436 million. By the New Year of 2018, in which the wider releases in both continents expanded considerably, the film has grossed $872.3 million in worldwide box-office gross, making it the fifth highest-grossing film of the year, beneath Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Critical Reception

Although the film's initial reaction was mixed, it gradually gained critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 96%, based on 300 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Face Behind the Smile presents a jarringly mature sequel to the triumphant Prodigy by bringing us an intrinsically personal story about identity, sexuality and the sheer horror of being in your own mind" On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 95 out of 100, based on 60 critics, indicating "universal acclaim." On both websites, it was the highest scoring film released in 2017.

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote a glowing review after The Face Behind the Smile premiered at the 2017 November Film Festival. He praised the actors' performances and described the direction of Matthew Vaughn to be "haunting and pitiless, yet unnaturally warming, in its visual exploration of human youth" Rooney concluded that the film "will strike plangent chords for anyone who has ever struggled with their own mind".

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film four stars out of fourwrote that the film was "one of the most excruciatingly moving films of the year". He praised Asa Butterfield and Ariel Winter, but thought that the scene-stealer was Elle Fanning, who, he thought, 'beautifully portrayed a guarded, mysterious and sympathetic character who unintentionally provokes the happiness of others'. He lauded her scenes with Winter, and the chemistry between them, thinking that they made the movie as much as Winter alone had done. He also praised James Newton Howard's "mesmerising" score, thinking that it made the scenes seem far more artistic than originally intended.

Elle and ariel

Critics acclaimed the performances and chemistry of Ariel Winter (left) and Elle Fanning (right)

The performances of Asa Butterfield, Ariel Winter, Elle Fanning and Daisy Ridley were highlighted for applause by many critics. Kim Newman wrote "Ariel Winter sheds the expectations of her Modern Family persona and presents us with a wounded, haunting performance that showcases the significance of her character's hardships", and believed that she carried the entire film. He also thought that he would have mistaken her for Butterfield's actual half-sister if he didn't already know who she was, praising Vaughn's casting choices and direction. He also praised the complexity afforded to the smaller moments of the film, and the fact that Vaughn "shedded predictability" by not making an antagonist the central focus of the film, in contrast to Prodigy. Ariel Winter herself expressed some form of dissatisfaction with some scenes, even though she hugely enjoyed portraying her character, and thought that her performance in the opening scenes was "jilted and uneven".

The film has been criticised by some viewers for trying too hard to surpass the original, which was judged as "refreshing" and "effortlessly moving" by some critics. However, Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph, who also awarded the film a full mark of five stars out of five, believed that "liberties and extremities were inevitable for Vaughn, who wanted to make people remember this film alongside the predecessor. I'm amazed by the patience in his direction here, and the fact that he almost eases phenomenal performances from his cast". He also acclaimed the utilisation of characters from the predecessor, and how the events of Prodigy weave into the events of this one. He also highlighted the fact that The Face Behind the Smile gives greater significance to its title, since "Casey keeps showing us more secrets, more insecurities, more complexity, when we're supposed to think that everything is okay". He noted that "the one flaw that could be possible with this film is the overabundance of characters", but believed that Vaughn handled them skilfully.

Brian Formo of gave The Face Behind the Smile an 'A' grade rating, applauding the performances and tone but contending that the film "is more unpredictable and emotional than it is a masterpiece", stating that he preferred Prodigy as a film, but appreciated the extent to which Vaughn tried to rise above that film and tried not to make it "more of the same". Similarly, Mark Kermode, who listed the film as one of the best of 2016, thought that it wasn't wholly necessary to reintroduce so many reprising characters. He praised the new cast members, particularly Butterfield and Fanning. Owen Glieberman of Vanity gave the film a positive review, writing that "the film is an emotional ghost train - it has moments where you laugh yourself speechless, where you cry your eyes out, where you're transfixed by the tension or the uncertainty, or wondering why a character does what he or she does. The only difference is, this one will actually effect you". He called Vaughn an "unsung visual genius" and praised the subtlety of his direction, as well as the contributions of Chris Columbus and Ridley Scott, stating that he could recognise their inclusion in the script.

In a review for The Verge, Tasha Robinson lamented what she believed to be the under-utilisation of certain characters, but wrote that "these guys are at the top of their game on the screen whenever they show up", and praised the dialogue between Winter, Fanning and Butterfield. While discussing the film with Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times, they both concurred that "The Face Behind the Smile is a sad story that is woven with happiness in almost every other frame, and it's mesmerising to see Vaughn's vision come to life so cleanly". He praised the alterations in theme, since the first film dealt with bullying and the struggle to rise above one's own self-hatred, whereas The Face Behind the Smile's almost titular theme was, Chang described, "when one will open up about their demons". Chang called Winter a revelation in this film, praising her emotional communication with the audience without saying a word, at least not coherently.

On his YouTube channel, Christ Stuckmann gave the film an A+, characterising the film as an exploration of how one can be so entrapped in their own head by their experiences that they get scared crossing the road, calling it Butterfield's best performance to date. He thought that Vaughn took an array of risks with how mature the film was intended to be, writing that "the film had an unexpectedly harsh portrayal of life, but somehow Matthew Vaughn injects happiness or hope into as many shots as he can." John Flickster joined Stuckmann in lauding the film, giving it an A+ and praising the two leads, but thinking that some characters overstayed their welcome and some plot threads could have been explored a little more. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, calling Prodigy a superior film, but thinking that the performances and direction matched one another. Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film an A and called it "colourful yet dark, mesmerising yet smooth, with some good performances to match a surprisingly deep story". He went on to describe it as a worthy opponent to the quality of the previous one.

The Face Behind the Smile attracted major controversy for the bedroom scene between Skylar and Casey, with many audiences complaining that they were uncomfortable with the suddenness and explicit nature of the whole scene. Vaughn defended that the film was designed in terms of direction to reflect the mood of the characters, and that the kiss and what followed would have been sudden and abrupt for them, but it would escalate quickly. Ariel Winter admitted it "gave her the heebie-jeebies", and feared being sexualised for the scene, but both her and the director agreed that it was somewhat necessary, and that the film had been rated R, warranting the graphic nature of the scene.



  1. Bad - Michael Jackson
  2. Superheroes - The Script
  3. All Over the World - ELO
  4. I Won't Give Up - Jason Mraz
  5. Our Song - Taylor Swift
  6. I Believe I Can Fly - R. Kelly
  7. Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams
  8. One Step Closer - S Club Juniors
  9. How to Save a Life - The Fray
  10. Somebody to Love - Queen
  11. Written in the Stars - Tinie Tempah Ft. Eric Turner
  12. Going Back - Phil Collins
  13. If You Leave Me Now - Chicago
  14. Let Me Go - Gary Barlow


  • The film is 147 minutes long.
  • Rated R for strong bloody violence, strong language throughout, mature thematic elements, one scene of sexual content and full-frontal nudity, disturbing imagery regarding child-abuse and loneliness.
  • Ariel Winter and Sarah Hyland both starred (as sisters) in the American sitcom Modern Family.
  • Brendan Gleeson, Rupert Grint and David Tennant starred in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  • David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, Caitlin Blackwood and Maisie Williams both starred in Doctor Who.
  • The film had three prospective titles excluding the one that was chosen: Speak Up, Coming Home or You Don't Know Me.
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