Parents' Guide to

Joy (2019)

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Intense drama about sex trafficking has lots of violence.

Movie NR 2019 99 minutes
Joy (2019) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 16+

Realistic & Important

My rating is "very good" but not because I was so engrossed and entertained like with most good movies. It's subject is a very real concern for many children and adults! I can't think of any other movie like it which shows us this Nigerian sex trafficking reality. It's informative and isn't dramatized so much that you don't get the clear picture. There are definite gaps here and there but there's enough to deliver the main points. Such a sad movie but also necessary!
age 14+


This is a long overdue story that needed to get out there globally. While there a a few story gaps the overall message is there and heartbreaking.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (2 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This is a movie that's sometimes hard to watch. Joy won Best Film award at the 2018 London Film Festival, and certainly Alphonsus is good as a pragmatic woman dealing with her distasteful world just as it is -- as created by director Sudabeth Mortezai -- rather than how she wishes it would be. What's commendable is the way he director decided to make a film about sexual exploitation without capitalizing on the exploitation by showing the actors naked or having actual sex. The movie does a great job of outlining the horrors of human trafficking and its physical and psychological toll, as well as setting up Joy's moral dilemmas. Especially galling is the hypocrisy of authorities who want Joy to help them put away a criminal but who don't care about the danger it will put Joy in.

However, in constant survival mode, Joy is expressionless and emotionless through most of the film. Like the family that sent her to become a prostitute, her moral compass is compromised. Without much of a plot to make sense of the dark world presented here, there isn't much for an audience to do but simply accept the darkness. There's some confusion as to which character the story focuses on and the film can be maddeningly vague at times. A scene in Africa seems to depict men throwing money, or perhaps fake money, at female dancers. Why? We don't know. Why linger on this for so long? We don't know. To the degree that older teens might find this of interest, the slow pace will be off-putting and the meandering quality of many scenes will make this feel like a long, unrewarding slog.

Movie Details

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