Is Smile based on a true story? It blends fiction and real-life


Smile by Paramount Pictures had a sterling debut in theaters and received strong reviews. The film centers on Rose, a clinical psychiatrist hiding the trauma of watching her mother commit suicide behind a smile. However, smiling becomes a terrifying proposition after meeting a patient who claims a supernatural entity is stalking her. 

Rose becomes increasingly convinced that the fate of her patient, who slashed her throat in front of Rose, awaits her. She struggles with nightmarish memories and hallucinations supposedly caused by the same smiling force that drove her patient to suicide. To survive, she must find a person who survived a similar experience. 

Smile is based on a fictional short film by film director Parker Finn 

The success of Parker Finn’s 2020 short film Laura Hasn’t Slept spawned Smile. Paramount Pictures approached Parker to create a feature-length movie after his short film won the Special Jury Recognition Prize at the 2020 South by Southwest festival. 

During an interview with Akron Beacon Journal, Finn described Laura Hasn’t Slept as the spiritual cousin to Smile. Both productions are entirely fictional. 

However, due to Finn’s preference for psychological horror rather than gore, he based the film on real-life emotions that torment people – trauma, fear, anxiety, and guilt. He said:

“I want to take something that was really deeply psychological and internal and ground it as a story with a character, and then introduce this extraordinary external, potentially supernatural threat that’s coming and braid those two things until they become indistinguishable from one another.”

Finn talked to The Wrap about why he chose a smile, the universal symbol of joy, as the basis of his horror film:

“I think there’s something fun there and I love the inherent contradiction between a smile and this sense of palpable evil. I wanted the movie to feel sort of gleefully evil and I’m hoping that’s what people will get out of it.”