Two for Joy

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

Tom Beard

Starring

Billie Piper Daniel Mays Samantha Morton

Anticipation.

Looks like it could be a slice of Northern misery porn.

Enjoyment.

Morton is as good as ever, but relative newcomer Emilia Jones is one to watch.

In Retrospect.

A refreshingly empathetic take on familiar subject matter.

Samantha Morton plays a mother struggling with depression after the death of her husband in Tom Beard’s sensitive familial drama.

We don’t talk about Samantha Morton enough. In a career spanning almost 30 years, she’s racked up two Academy Award nominations and a raft of high-profile performances, working with the likes of Charlie Kaufman, David Cronenberg and Harmony Korine. But still she flies under the proverbial cinematic radar. Perhaps this is how Morton likes it – she takes chances with her roles, bringing her talent to high and low budget features alike.

In Tom Beard’s directorial debut, Two for Joy, Morton gives another powerful yet understated performance as Aisha, a mother struggling to raise her children in the wake of her husband’s death. In a desperate attempt to forget their troubles, Aisha takes her shy daughter Vi (Emilia Jones) and tearaway son Troy (Badger Skelton) to the seaside caravan park they used to frequent in happier times. It’s off-season and the weather looks as miserable as the family themselves do, but things appear to take a turn when they meet friendly campsite manager Lias (Daniel Mays), who’s joined by his sister Lillah (Billie Piper) and precocious niece Miranda (Bella Ramsey).

A desperate sense of sadness haunts the two families, both driven to the coast by domestic disorder. Comparisons are clear between Beard’s film and Ken Loach’s kitchen sink dramas, or Andrea Arnold’s early work, which shined a light on life on the British poverty line. Yet Beard’s film is strong enough to stand on its own, thanks to smart, naturalistic casting which makes the most of its stars’ talents, from Morton’s wide-eyed vulnerability to Piper’s surly defensiveness bolstered by a high ponytail and large hoop earrings. Noteworthy too are the youngsters who power the film with their heartbreaking turns – capricious and melancholy, indisputable products of their unfortunate environments.

It’s a sad state of affairs in which a failure to communicate properly looms large over all parties, and no coastal retreat can alleviate the pain that clings to Beard’s characters. A sense of creeping dread eventually turns to genuine terror, but that’s not to say Two for Joy is pure melodrama – hope lives within its bones, too.

Published 26 Sep 2018

Tags: Samantha Morton Tom Beard

Anticipation.

Looks like it could be a slice of Northern misery porn.

Enjoyment.

Morton is as good as ever, but relative newcomer Emilia Jones is one to watch.

In Retrospect.

A refreshingly empathetic take on familiar subject matter.

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