The Funny, Forward, and Bracingly Political “Joyland”

Anthony Lane in The New Yorker:

Trying to sort out who is who, and what everybody wants, is no easy task in “Joyland,” a début feature from the Pakistani director Saim Sadiq. In Lahore, a woman named Nucchi (Sarwat Gilani), who already has three daughters, remarks that her water has broken; she might as well be announcing that dinner is served. For the birth of her fourth child, she is ferried to hospital on the back of a moped driven by Haider (Ali Junejo), whom we take to be her husband. Not so. He is, in fact, the brother of her husband, Saleem (Sameer Sohail). Haider is married to Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq); they have no offspring, to the dismay of his aged father, known as Abba (Salmaan Peerzada). All of the above inhabit one household. It’s not a peaceful place, or an especially happy one, but it’s home.

That home is worth dwelling on, for it feels like a book of short stories. Not for a while—not, perhaps, since Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” (2019)—have I been struck by so potent a sense of place. The daily routine revolves around a central courtyard, where Abba, a widower in a wheelchair, presides. “My family has lived here since before Partition,” he says. Space is tight, and one of the little girls often shares a bed with Haider and Mumtaz. The air-conditioning breaks down. (Power outages are frequent across the city, and some scenes are illuminated by cell-phone flashlights.) The fabric of the film is a weaving of new and old; we hear talk of Netflix subscriptions, yet one shot, of an open doorway, has the pious composure of a Pieter de Hooch interior, from seventeenth-century Holland, and the plot begins, if you please, with a goat being slaughtered in the courtyard. Blood pools darkly on the tiled floor.

More here.