Two For Joy

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Two For Joy
"Ramsey is likely to emerge as one of the standout talents of her generation." | Photo: Courtesy of EIFF

"Are you getting any help?" Lilah (Billie Piper) asks Aisha (Samantha Morton) towards the end of this deliberately uncomfortable film. Aisha responds by telling her about her bereavement benefit, but that's probably not the kind of help that Lilah was referring to.

It has been some time since Aisha's partner died but she can't shake off her grief. She spends ever day the same way, scraping herself out of bed only to collapse again on the couch. The care of her son Troy (Badger Skelton) is left to teenage daughter Vi (Emilia Jones), but the boy, full of guilt over his father's death, has gone completely off the rails. Not only does he not listen to his sister, he's getting increasingly involved with petty crime and the culture of racist resentment that exists on the housing estate where they live. Desperate to force some kind of change, Vi eventually talks her mother into taking them down to a caravan site for the weekend.

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At first the break seems like a good idea. The site caretaker Lias (Daniel Mays) recognises that Aisha is struggling and gently coaxes her out of her shell. Lilah, his sister, has troubles of her own but nevertheless tries to help. But it's Lilah's daughter Miranda (Bella Ramsey, who made a big impression as an ill-fated girl in Game Of Thrones) who breaks through to Troy. Together the two run wild around the local area. The boy looks happy again for the first time, but their connection is forged partly from a shared desire to escape their frustrating lives, and the drastic action they ultimately take will have consequences for everyone.

D├ębut feature director Tom Beard keeps the action deliberately low key and Norfolk alumnus Tim Sidell provides cinematography that creates an atmosphere at once moody and stubbornly ordinary. the combined effect is to remind us that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of families out there like this, very few of which are getting the help they really need. Shot differently, the same story might easily have been given a Disney-style gloss and presented as a take on people discovering the importance of family; as it is, it appeals to viewer prejudices about those who don't work and don't look after themselves, about the parents everybody likes to blame when kids cause trouble, but the ever-reliable Morton overturns all this with her heartfelt performance. Emotionally distant as she is throughout most of the film, it's impossible not to root for her.

Morton aside, the one to watch here is Ramsey. This was the first feature film she appeared in but her growing body of work suggests that she's likely to emerge as one of the standout talents of her generation. She has all the more room to shine opposite Skelton, as he holds emotion back until the final scenes, only then showing us what he's capable of. This impressive cast is what keeps the film engaging even during its grimmest scenes. It's an evocative portrait of grief that finds tension in the ordinary en route to a harrowing conclusion.



Two For Joy can be pre-ordered on iTunes.

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2019
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A family struggling with bereavement try to find solace on a caravan holiday.

Festivals:

EIFF 2018
Seville 2018

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