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  • Writer's pictureLouie Young

My Review of... JOYLAND

Updated: Feb 20, 2023


Saim Sadiq's feature film debut is a compassionate yet heartbreaking piece of cinema which manages to pull on the heart strings.

(Alina Khan and Ali Junejo, Joyland.)

As far as debut's go it doesn't get much better than in the form of Joyland for Saim Sadiq. Sadiq, who studied Screenwriting and Directing at the Columbia University School of Arts, successfully manages to pour his heart and life experiences on to the big screen.

In terms of story Joyland follows Haider, the youngest in a traditional Pakistani family who gets a job as a backup dancer at the local Bollywood meets burlesque theatre, 'Joyland'. There he strikes up a bond and intimate relationship with Trans performer, Biba.

I went in to this film knowing very little and having not seen any of the trailers, I would encourage others to do the same. You instantly get to know each member of the family, what they stand for and what they want to achieve in life.

Haider and his wife Mumtaz have taken on eachother's stereotypical roles. Haider is seen less of a man for not being to have a child and not having a job by his Father. Whilst Mumtaz thoroughly enjoys working and providing for her family. So when they discover Mumtaz is pregnant and Haider now has a job, life should be better right? Wrong.

Haider begins to explore this new relationship with Biba, questioning whether what he is doing is right as well as being afraid to be caught out. On the other hand, Mumtaz is struggling with life at home.

With all this going on, the film still manages to capture these heart warming and charming moments as you begin to feel more connected with the family.

Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq make this film what it is with their shining performances as Haider and Mumtaz, respectively. But it really is Alina Khan who is a revelatory as Biba and deserves all the spotlights to be shining on her.

The film has won numerous awards including a Cannes Jury Prize where the film received a rapturous 8 minute standing ovation and was also shortlisted for Best International film at the Oscars.

With beautiful cinematography to admire, Joyland really does feel like the best mix of Indie Hollywood and an intimate Bollywood picture. With the film going through a ban and unban in Pakistan, you feel as though this is just the kind of film Pakistani cinema needs and credit to a film like Joyland for making such a big impact across the Western pond.

Joyland may not be your typical go to movie when going out to the cinema or finding what to stream on a Friday night (it's not mine) but I guarantee you will be grateful you did as you watch the final scene and credits begin to roll, leaving you with a bittersweet feeling.

I was lucky enough to attend a Q&A with director Saim Sadiq where he talked all things Joyland, his background and his way into film. If you'd like to check out my coverage of that then click here.

Joyland is out in select UK theatres from 24th February.

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