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Film / Joy (2016)

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Joy is a 2016 film from Mongolia directed by Chinguun Balkhjav.

Az is a thirty-ish woman living in Ulaanbaatar. She and her husband are getting ready to move out of their apartment, as a husband and his pregnant wife are moving in. The woman goes into labor, and Az and her husband rush the couple to the hospital. This causes Az to start thinking about her past, and she goes back for a visit to her home town.

In her home town, a village in the countryside, Az meets her aunt and her uncle. She starts thinking about her past, how she grew up as a happy child with her mother and her father Tseden, until she was eight years old, and a series of tragedies started to unfold.

Not, repeat not, that movie with Jennifer Lawrence.


  • Contrived Coincidence: A million people in Ulaanbaatar, but it's Az's long-lost sister who is the new tenant in her apartment.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Just when it seems like the three-person family has found stability and some security after Tseden joins Bilgee in selling dairy products, Tseden is killed by a drunk driver in a truck.
  • Death by Childbirth: Tragically, Az's mother dies delivering little Jargal.
  • Doorstop Baby: To be fair, she is only 10 years old or so, but a panicking Az makes an unfortunate decision. She drops little Jargal off with a kindly stranger, because she can't find her father and can't look after the baby. When she finds out her father is dead and goes back to get her sister, it turns out the kindly stranger has moved out, and taken Jargal with him. And she doesn't know his name. She doesn't see her sister for 20 years or so.
  • Framing Device: Az in the present day, thinking about her childhood and how everything went awry when her little sister was born.
  • Monochrome Past: Used for the first couple of flashback scenes to indicate that they are in fact Az's flashbacks. Later abandoned.
  • One-Word Title: There's a Title Drop: "So anyone who is in love must have joy and happiness."
  • Plot-Triggering Death: An idyllic family life brought to a screeching halt when Az's mother dies giving birth to Jargal.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Leads to disaster for Az and Jargal. Az's aunt and uncles can't bring themselves to tell her that her father was hit and killed by a truck. Understandable, maybe, but when Tseden doesn't come home, Az hides in a truck and rides to Darkhan to find him. This eventually leads to her separation from Jargal.
  • Promotion to Parent: Az basically becomes the mom after her mother dies. She looks after Jargal when their father is away, she keeps the family bankroll under her mattress, and she lectures her father about budgeting and keeping track of expenses.
  • Speech Impediment: Uncle Bilgee has a severe stutter. This is how Az and the audience recognize him when he's seen in the present day.
  • Tearjerker: Mom dies, Dad dies, little sister lost due to some bad luck and poor decision-making. Lots of tears. The scene where a grown-up Az falls to her knees at her father's grave and unwraps the shoes she wanted to give him all those years ago stands out.
  • Title Drop: "So anyone who is in love must have joy and happiness."