Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10)
Wiping away sexual taboos in countries where the culture’s tolerance for such things is, shall we say, somewhat “limited” can indeed be a slow, painful and difficult process. Such conditions are presented with remarkable candor on a number of fronts in this groundbreaking debut feature from Pakistani writer-director Saim Sadiq, who unflinchingly depicts the frustration that many are feeling in a nation yearning for greater social acceptance and personal freedom when it comes to alternate lifestyles. And this work is certainly commendable for the bold, courageous steps it has taken in this regard. However, these ideas are far from anything new in the world of cinema, and, as I watched this film, I couldn’t help but think that the praise that has been heaped on it is somewhat hyped, primarily because of the venue in which the story is set. Don’t get me wrong – this is a well-made picture, and I would imagine that the impact it has had on its country of origin is substantial, but I don’t believe it’s quite on par with the sweeping accolades that have been showered upon it. (Its victory at the Independent Spirit Awards for Best International Film, for example, was an overstatement in my book compared to some of the other nominees.) As a first feature for the filmmaker, it’s a fine work that shows a great deal of promise for its creator, who clearly possesses an abundance of talent that I can’t wait to see further developed. But there are elements of his craft that could use some further refinement to elevate him to the level of the big leagues (case in point, a conclusion that has been done several times before and almost comes across as trite here). “Joyland” certainly makes a powerful statement that needs to be said (and acted upon), and it does so in a highly capable way, but aspects of it could have been improved upon to make this a truly great film worthy of the honors that have been bestowed upon it.