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Joy Movie: Romance & Compassion in Unusual Israeli Fairy Tale

Joy movie Sigalit FuchsJoy movie with Sigalit Fuchs. Set in modern-day Tel Aviv, Julie Shles’ peculiar fairy tale is centered on a bulky, bumbling heroine whose Big Dream is to have her lonely, aging parents reunited with their former friends on a live television show.
  • Joy (2005) movie review: An oddball modern-day fairy tale, Julie Shles’ Tel Aviv-set dramatic comedy revolves around the magical powers of empathy and forgiveness.
  • As the ungainly titular (in the English language) character, relative newcomer Sigalit Fuchs comes up with a memorable portrayal; just as good is veteran Rivka Michaeli as the young woman’s bossy mother.

Joy movie review: Julie Shles’ quirky Tel Aviv-set fairy tale offers quietly amusing pleasures

Directed by Julie Shles (Afula Express), the Israeli comedy-drama Joy / Muchrachim Lehiyot Same’ach is an offbeat modern-day fairy tale in which magic wands and pumpkin carriages are replaced by the more humanistic enchantments of empathy and forgiveness.

Set in Tel Aviv around the time of Yom Kippur, the movie chronicles the dreams and struggles of Simcha (Sigalit Fuchs), a clumsy, homely, overweight young woman whose name means “joy” or “gladness” and whose most ardent wish is to have her lonely parents’ former pals – Dad (Yossi Pollak) used to be a major womanizer who alienated lots of people – to attend a televised family and friends reunion.

Along the way, Simcha discovers both self-respect and an uncommonly packaged Prince Charming (Alex Senderovich), with whom she makes one of the most unusual movie couples since Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort in Harold and Maude.

Quality cast

Even though Shles’ direction and Omer Tadmor’s screenplay meander aimlessly every now and then – the film could easily have been 10 minutes shorter – they should be applauded for playing up their multifarious characters’ eccentricities while managing to skirt the treacherous trap of cheap sentimentality that usually plagues this sort of well-intentioned, whimsicality-prone fare.

As a plus, there are several remarkable performances, especially those of relative newcomer Sigalit Fuchs (previously seen in a supporting role in Nina’s Tragedies) as the titular heroine and veteran Rivka Michaeli (Amazing Grace) as her overbearing mother – both of whom earlier this year won Israeli Film Academy (Ophir) Awards in, respectively, the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.

Joy / Muchrachim Lehiyot Same’ach (2005)

Director: Julie Shles.

Screenplay: Omer Tadmor.

Cast: Sigalit Fuchs. Tal Friedman. Rivka Michaeli. Dorit Lev-Ari. Alexander Senderovich. Eliran Caspi. Karen Mor. Yossi Pollak.


Joy Movie (2005) Review” endnotes

Joy movie reviewed at the AFI FEST (website).

Sigalit Fuchs Joy movie image: Lama Films.

Joy Movie: Romance & Compassion in Unusual Israeli Fairy Tale” last updated in September 2021.

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