Two For Joy is an indie drama directed by Tom Beard that recently received its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. When you watch movies like this, they do all follow the same kind of film festival formula that is a key to its success. Do you have a slightly bigger name in a cast full of relative unknowns? Billie Piper from Doctor Who (2005-06) is here to lend a hand. Wistful shots of nature and imagery that parallels the story happening? Well, here we have a seaside caravan park and some birds that show us a relationship being formed; like one that is happening within the story. Finally, do you have an arty aspect ratio and camera work? Well, it does, but now I do feel like I’m being overly cynical.
Looking at it more positively for a second: It tackles some difficult subjects, it is full of great performances and is visually stunning. I blame a marathon of movie watching for the original outlook.
Like I said, Beard tackles some issues that he does well getting to the root of; it’s a bit of a slice of life style film. The story follows a family with not a lot to their name. The mother (Samantha Morton) suffers from a mental health condition related to the death of her husband. Morton is completely captivating in her role. She’s a mother at a loss; she has lost her husband and is now slowly losing grip on her family and wellbeing of children.
The oldest in the family, Vi (Emilia Jones), is in many ways her mother’s carer with one of her friends remarking she is practically a slave to her. She has become the leader of the family and the in many ways the mother figure for her brother and it is too much to take on at this age. The film does a good job at showing how much she is going through, how much she wants a normal of life but the good in her and when she has these thoughts, the deep regret.
The son, named Troy (Badger Skelton), is loyal to a fault and heavily influenced by those around him, due to some form of trauma in his past and no real father figure in his life. He will follow blindly, as demonstrated in the opening minutes when he is persuaded to help in the armed robbery of a local shop. There are very few lines of actual dialogue with the acting done mainly through body language and facial expression. He is one of the main focuses of the movie and Skelton handles this well with a performance only topped by Morton.
They decide to get away from it all and head to the seaside caravan where the majority of the plot takes place where we meet Billie Piper’s Lilah and her daughter Miranda (Bella Ramsey). Just out of an abusive relationship, the bruises still fresh on her daughter, she is clearly traumatised and lashes out in violent and horrible ways intended to be as rude as possible. It would be easy to find the character annoying and unnecessary, but it’s a very real portrayal of the effect parents can have on their children. The whole film can really be summed up as just that.
It’s a heart-breaking story at times with some key dramatic sequences that fall flat, feel contrived and take it to very obvious indie film conclusion. It could still bring a tear to your eye if you are usually affected in that way. Praise should also be given to the cinematography, shot in an aspect ration that is almost standard 16:9 with a border frame added around it. Along with fake grain and scratches scattered throughout, it gives a look that is similar to what The Florida Project (minus the border) was going for, in that the imperfections in the film have a profound meaning against the backdrop, albeit more artificial looking.
It’s a valiant effort. With stunning visuals and solid performances, it’s only the conclusion and a couple of story moments that really let it down. It goes in ways that the majority of festival entries tend to go and ticks a lot of the boxes required to make it as one.
Two For Joy is currently screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. However, there were no plans for a full release as we went to press.