Matching content with form, the movie is tight and merciless, even if parts play like a tract.
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In its refusal to bend to unrealistic notions of escape, Joy is a bravely dark movie.
If all the performances here feel lived-in, it’s because they’re literally just that — but even within that context, Alphonsus is an electric find, silently signaling Joy’s clashing moral impulses with a complexity that would defeat many a professional.
Centred around two exceptional performances, and taking an intimate, documentary-like approach to the drama, Joy effectively explores the devastating traps of abuse and extortion without ever becoming exploitative itself.
Both riveting character study and experiential glimpse at the Africa-to-Europe sex slave trade, Austrian-Iranian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Joy” builds its reservoir of sadness with pulsing efficiency.