The Bleak Underbelly Of Sex Trafficking
Netflix’s latest artistic foreign picture, Joy, is a thought provoking journey down the grimy streets of sex trafficking. Armed with slick cinematography, a keen eye for colour and interesting compositional techniques, Joy is an aesthetically pleasing film but certainly won’t be for everyone. With a simple, character-driven focus, Joy does enough to make it worth watching but those looking for something with a little more drama or substance, may be left wanting.
The story itself predominantly revolves around a young Nigerian woman called Joy. Stuck in the rut of sex trafficking for her Madame in order to pay off her debts, she reluctantly supervises a young girl called Precious, grooming her for the grimy, shadowy world of prostitution. As the film progresses, Joy finds herself torn between paying off her debts and helping the authorities bring the Madame to justice. All of this builds to a somewhat underwhelming but fitting end to this realistic drama.
While the story itself isn’t very memorable, the cinematography is top notch and deserves to be recognized here. From reflective shots showing both characters in a phone booth to a unique focus on the background elements of a scene, there’s an awful lot going on here that’s worth your time if you like dissecting a film. There’s a wicked sense of irony here with juxtapositions that crop up all the way through the film. Early on there’s a few scenes of preaching with lively music and bright colours which contrast beautifully with a more sinister, Satan-loving worship late on. Even the names of our characters, Precious and Joy, reflect the two dominating traits these women adopt or strive for through much of the 90 minute run time.
The torn, conflicted nature of Joy’s choice helps to drive the film forward and this is perfectly illustrated by Anwulika Alphonsus whom the film follows for much of the run-time. It’s just as well too as the film is chock full of silent scenes and long shots to really drive home the seriousness of the dilemma she faces. It’s a great testament to this character and for this alone, Joy is worth checking out.
If you’re not in the mood for analyzing and picking apart a film, Joy is unlikely to be a picture to leave a lasting impression when the credits roll. There’s certainly some interesting themes at play here and the story itself is well realized but much like the slew of other foreign titles on Netflix, very few manage to stand the test of time. While I really enjoyed this one, I do appreciate this is going to be a film with an acquired taste for general audiences. It won’t be for everyone but if you can take to the style and methodical pace, there’s enough here to make it worth your time.