The contest unfolds in five stages, each with its own series of triumphs and humiliations. The "Super Mom" round is won by Irina, a mother of four, whose family was forced to live on the street after defaulting on a bank loan. Irina is a refugee from Abkhazia and the contestant most in need of decent shelter— her family had been living in a hospital room for seven years. The most crushing humiliation, however, comes when Irina's 14-year old son brings her a magazine in which she appears half-naked.
The oldest participant Inga wins the cooking competition but refuses to compete in another: the contestants were initially told there wouldn't be a bikini contest. One of the contestants brings her newborn baby to rehearsals and there are always breast milk stains on her swimsuit. Others somehow manage to leave their kids with neighbors, so suffer no distraction during rehearsals of various humiliating tasks— walking the catwalk, reciting poems about their illustrious homeland, even how to smile.
What's clear is the smiles are forced, and the contest not about virtuous mothers but rather a pitiless race for survival— much like in Sydney Pollack's drama They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Like Pollack's film, Keep Smiling ends tragically with a contestant's suicide. Meanwhile, the pageant's male director denies that anything has happened and insists that the show must go on.
The pageant's fione of the most impressive sequences in recent Georgian cinema. Each contestant walks on-stage dressed in white and red vertically-striped dresses; by adding belts their costumes come to resemble the Red Cross emblem of the country's flag. The women thus present a powerful metaphor for Georgian society: if the women are indeed Georgian mothers, they also come to represent the Georgian people. Many of the contestants have lost their husbands to the Georgian Civil War. In contrast, the men organizing the event represent the opposite end of the spectrum: politicians. Like the pageant's organizers, Georgia's politicians could have provided mothers and their children with housing and decent work. Like the pageant's organizers, Georgia's politicians pretend to be virtuous, while in reality they just humiliate, belittle, stir up discord, rape and kill Georgian citizens.
In the final scene two children, dressed as angels, descend to the stage from above to hand the contest's winner an envelope filled with the prize money. But all of the contestants left this pitiless contest after Gvantsa's death. The stage is bare, save its organizers.