Joy Kevin contains another remarkable performance from Tallie Medel (who burst on the indie scene in 2012 with The Unspeakable Act); here she is aided to great effect by the fact she plays a dancer. Her physicality is amazing and she’s given free reign to use it, not only in the numerous dance scenes throughout, but also in simple daily moments as when she steps out of the shower onto a towel and shimmies across the bathroom keeping the towel between her toes.
A scene early on sets up the marriage of Joy and Kevin. Sitting in bed with a calender between them, the wife and husband request blocks of times they can work from home. Kevin can’t concentrate on his stand-up routine with her around: “You’re distracting. You’re either hopping around or you’re talking.” She requests early Saturday morning for dance practice assuming she can do her thing and not wake up her husband, but he disagrees. Possibly a minor scene of domestic partnership; possibly an indicator of bigger problems impending. The film initially finds a comfy zone of low-key relationship chat, but then begins to explore an outside tension between art for ourselves and art for the entertainment of others. This is shown in incisive manner with a thread concerning a commissioned dance. Joy has been hired to give a performance assuming she can choreograph a piece which upholds her integrity and doesn’t pander. She struggles to find it but when she does, she considers it some of her best work. That is, until she gets the message from the money man that it’s too weird for an audience of “1,400 suits”.
Meanwhile, Kevin struggles through therapy sessions with his brother until he suggests that hypnotherapy might be the only way to get him outside his own head. He tries it, hiring an airy hypnotherapist who also happens to be a beautiful young woman, and she begins to bring out a different side in Kevin.
Joy Kevin is directed by Caleb Johnson, an impressive first feature after a string of shorts. Medel is let loose, a perfect film to capture her liveliness, her humor and her darkness. It’s a tremendous thing to watch. Winner of a Special Jury Prize for Tallie Medel at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival. 62 minutes.