Contemporary urban life has its strange tendencies that shape social material of the world. From familial ties to the global flow of people, the cities shape the life of different social classes leaving a mark on the way parenthood is constructed.
The short film “Joyce” looks at the life in New York City, where successful workaholic and egocentric parents dedicate their lives on their work life, while equally hardworking immigrant nannies take care of their children. Unlike many other films that address such situation, the subtle, empathetic and heartfelt drama focuses on the story of the nannies, and particularly on the touching everyday of Filipino nanny Joyce. Warm and caring Joyce has migrated to New York from Manila in order to support her family at home, whom she misses dearly. She works for a husband and wife, who too busy to notice or care about their daughters interests or if Joyce has received her paycheck in time. Their arrogance and self-centeredness forms a telling background for the story that focuses on Joyce’s struggles of being mentally and physically far from her family. In “Joyce” we follow one of the harder days of her life, which exposes many thought-provokingly emotional aspects of contemporary notions of parenthood, work, and global class divide.
The subtle storytelling makes sure that the intimately structured story hits its emotional notes. The both realistic and allegoric feel is achieved by naturalistic cinematography and editing, which bring the events close to the audience and stress the affectionate approach that the film tries to successfully achieve. Joyce’s emotional journey is presented without sentimental accents, which makes the themes and emotional atmosphere easily identifiable. Although the soundtrack occasionally slips to the track of sentimentality, the performances keep the film beautifully grounded.
The positive and negative tensions arising between the sensitively directed characters pull the story forward and are the thematic core of the film. The importance of close and understanding relationships for an individual living in any kind of conditions is essential for their wellbeing. “Joyce”, which understands the hardships of finding such relations in a foreign and socially distant context in which familial relations are mediated by quick and expensive phone calls and homesickness is soothed by material objects from home.
The calmly paced narrative of “Joyce” is a little bit too convenient in some parts and covered topics are a little too simplified, but the sensitive approach that the socially and psychologically precise director Nora Jaenicke takes treats the universal subject matter with notable warmth and empathy. Movies like “Joyce” help as to be more empathetic towards migrants, while making us rethink our familial relations in contemporary world that appreciates blinding thirst for success, self-centeredness, and anonymity and instrumentality of relations. By stressing the importance of close relationships in a setting that deepens loneliness and exclusion daily, “Joyce” concludes with hopeful notes about how to emotionally survive amidst the global flows of workforce. It is beautiful and honest contemporary drama for the people working as nannies for the people hiring them.