‘Joy’ Review: Working The Hard Streets

Joy is a sex worker in debt bondage. She’s been brought from Nigeria and is being forced to pay back an extortionate debt by undertaking dangerous work on the streets. She lives in a small flat with several other women doing the same work. One day a young girl named Precious is brought into the group. Joy is made responsible for Precious, inducting her into this dark world.
The overwhelming feeling of Joy is of being trapped. The women are trapped by their abusive mother who uses rape as a punishment, they are trapped by the unsympathetic government that would rather deport them than help them and they are trapped by the culture and religions of their homeland that have been weaponized by traffickers to keep them under control. The possibility of utilizing the western system to liberate themselves is exposed as a high risk, low chance of reward endeavour.
Anwulika Alphonsus is tragically convincing as Joy. Her lack of control and tremendous sorrow is devastating. Realistic. The film does, however, have a great humour and humanity. The relationship between the women is a welcome escape from the desperation they are trapped within.
Joy is an upsetting but urgent film. It’s about the exploitation of immigrant women and how people are made to participate in their own imprisonment. It’s about the mindset that befalls those exploited and the humanity that is stripped away from these people.
Four Stars

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