Where would British cinema be without social realism? In his uncompromising debut, Tom Beard revisits the theme of juvenile anguish explored in his 2014 short, ‘A Generation of Vipers’. Having endured his own adolescent trauma when he lost the hearing in one ear following a rugby injury aged 13, Beard has an insight into the plight of the three kids at the centre of this sobering study of the disconnect so many feel on the margins of a broken society.
Aisha (Samantha Morton) is battling depression after her husband’s death and is facing the prospect of having her kids, Vi (Emilia Jones) and Troy (Badger Skelton), taken into care. To lighten the load, Vi persuades her to spend some time at their seaside caravan. There, Troy strikes up a friendship with a girl who’s staying on the campsite with her melancholic mother, Lillah (Billie Piper), and gregarious uncle, Lias (Daniel Mays). Further tragedy isn’t far away.
With the help of cinematographer Tim Sidell and production designer Laura Ellis Cricks, Beard roots these characters in this bleak but believable setting (though some symbolism involving caged magpies feels clumsy). Despite the sobering storyline, ‘Two for Joy’ opts for compassion instead of kitchen-sink misery and avoids driving home its political message. There are restrained turns from the young leads, while Mays and Piper provide self-effacing support. Best of the lot, though, is Morton, a study in detachment and disorientation.
BYLINE Patrick Peters