Two For Joy

Two For Joy
Two For Joy
Directed by Tom Beard
Starring Samantha Morton, Billie Piper, Daniel Mays, Emilia Jones, Bella Ramsey and Badger Skelton
In UK Cinemas September 28th, 2018

by Alex Plant

Caravan holidays, fishing and barbecuing whilst wrapped up to face the elements, are likely to conjure, for most, pleasant memories of British summertime. This is perhaps not so much the case for the two families at the centre of writer/director Tom Beard’s bleak and uncompromising drama. An uncomfortable watch at times, Two For Joy offers a glimpse of how families attempt, and often fail, to cope with issues like grief, abuse and depression, as well as with each other.

The backdrop is a relatably dreary Britain, where grey skies overlook greyer council estates, and even the starkly contrasted greens and blues of the country and seaside are eventually washed out by ever-encroaching cloud cover. This is complemented by a drip-feed approach to exposition. We never see the central family as a functional unit before their bereavement, and instead have to make do with hints of the life they once shared.

We’re introduced to a family in pieces, struggling to cope following the father’s death. Mother, Aisha (Morton) spends the majority of her time bed-ridden suffering from a debilitating depression. Pre-teen son, Troy (Skelton), is careening off the rails without proper parental supervision, which leaves eldest child Vi (Jones) the unenviable task of trying to keep the family afloat, lest social services intervene, while simultaneously having her GCSEs to prepare for. A trip to the family’s seaside caravan would seem to be just the tonic. Upon arrival the family are introduced to the sister and niece of the holiday park’s custodian (Mays), who are there to escape their own traumatic home life.

Two for Joy is full of strong-yet-subtle performances, though it occasionally feels unfocused, often darting between the three leads, rather than anchoring proceedings to one character’s perspective. Morton gives a thoroughly unglamorous and all-too-relatable turn as someone completely immobilised by their mental health. Her blank expression and muted delivery contrast particularly well against Billie Piper’s more brash Lillah, another newly-single mum who is also struggling to control her own boisterous adolescent, Amanda (Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey). However, it’s youngster Badger Skelton that steals the show. Despite a largely silent performance, he manages to balance both rowdy urchin and little boy lost in a way that doesn’t feel contrived. His defiance of his older sister and gravitation towards obviously bad influences like Amanda feels entirely natural, but he never feels like a lost cause. Meanwhile, the strain of mother/daughter role reversal is deftly portrayed by Jones. Beard is quick to remind us that though they may at times be anti-social, moody and often downright horrible, these characters are still children, and it’s this notion that underlies even the more tragic moments.

If you’re looking for a happy and resolute ending, this isn’t your film. Two For Joy is less a story about overcoming trauma than it is about the act of simply facing up to it. And though at times it’s a little too contemplative, the captivating performances keep it grounded.


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