5 Movies Like Joyland (2022)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Joyland ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Joyland is groundbreaking on nearly all accounts. It’s the first Pakistani film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and to be shortlisted for an Oscar. Its forthright depiction of trans life and gender identity provoked the ire of local authorities, but it also inspired a nationwide movement (#ReleaseJoyland) that fought against censorship. It’s understandable, then, if the film is remembered for these disruptive achievements alone, but it should be noted that Joyland, as it is, is simply a stunning piece of cinema. Every scene is beautifully blocked and vibrantly lit, like a painting come to life, and every one of them is rich with meaning; there’s not a second we’re not diving deeper into the wonderfully complex lives of these people, all of whom are exploring sexuality and independence as best they can in a restricted environment. And sure, Biba and Haider’s relationship takes center stage as it reveals the nuances of queer love, but Joyland just as deftly tackles toxic masculinity (and how it’s a specter that haunts Haider’s household), domestic labor (and how it largely goes unnoticed), and female solidarity (and how it can literally save a girl’s life). Heartbreaking and lovely, this a family saga in that it’s as much about Haider’s family as it is about him, and it’s a shame if it weren’t remembered as such. 

In both documentaries and films, adoptees meeting their biological parents for the first time is an event often painted in a sweet light. Never mind the child’s mixed feelings about it or the tragic reality that caused the split in the first place—it’s a reunion between family members, so it must be unequivocally special. In Return to Seoul, director Davy Chou doesn’t just debunk that myth, he subverts it by making the adoptee, Freddie, as unapologetically complex and emotionally enigmatic as possible. She resists affection but wallows in loneliness. She craves reinvention but stays in the same place for years. She’s in constant motion while being absolutely stuck in life. In other words, she’s a realistic embodiment of a person struggling to find some semblance of home. Chou displays an intimate understanding of the foreign experience, and he couples it with captivating cinematography, a rousing soundtrack, and fantastic performances across the board to make a daring, inventive, and thoroughly exciting film. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Guka Han, Hur Jin, Kim Dong-seok, Kim Sun-young, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Yoann Zimmer

Director: Davy Chou

Rating: R

Co-produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli and directed by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is a tale about a man shipwrecked on a desert island whose fate is changed upon meeting a giant turtle. Beautiful images are pulled together and combined with the film’s delicate symbolism about humanity and nature, in a story told with remarkable restraint. The only sound in the movie is that of nature and the film’s beautifully relaxing score. Using only simple ingredients, The Red Turtle is an enigmatic, captivating, and highly-recommended gem that, after all, encompasses life itself.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Barbara Beretta, Emmanuel Garijo, Tom Hudson

Director: Michael Dudok de Wit

"Many's the person missed the opportunity to say nothing and lost much because of it."

The Quiet Girl takes the troubled, reserved nature of Cáit (Catherine Clinch) as she's swallowed by the discord in her evergrowing family, who treats her as an outcast, and fills the film with her serene, observatory perspective. Long sequences with little to no dialogue and an expansive countryside give way to the emotional thrum of this found-family drama. The simplicity in every frame befits a child's innocence, and every visual and sonic decision reinforces that wonderfully. Loving and nurturing a child is a straightforward concept, and The Quiet Girl never complicates it. Without saying much, it says it all. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aine Hayden, Andrew Bennett, Carolyn Bracken, Carrie Crowley, Catherine Clinch, Joan Sheehy, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Marion O'Dwyer, Michael Patric, Neans Nic Dhonncha

Director: Colm Bairéad

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Director: Maryam Touzani

, 2022

Directed by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, the Korean film Broker is a simple but tender story about chosen family. It follows Moon So-young (IU), a young mother who decides to drop her baby off at a church, seemingly for good. But when So-young decides to return for the child, she discovers that he’s been stolen by two brokers who’ve put the baby up for adoption on the black market. She joins them in the hopes of meeting her child’s prospective new parents (and staking a claim at the payment) but the more they spend time with each other, acting like a real family on the road as they do, the more it becomes real for her, and the more she feels conflicted about the decision she’s about to make.

As with any Hirokazu Koreeda film, Broker is an affecting, empathetic story that succeeds at humanizing its misunderstood cast of characters. Admittedly, it’s not the best Koreeda movie out there, even when the category is narrowed down to stories about found families (the best in that regard would be his 2018 film Shoplifters). And Koreeda fans will find Broker somewhat scrubbed and Disney-fied for a larger crowd, lacking the edge that his previous Japanese films had. But it is undeniably heartwarming and beautiful. The road trip setup allows the characters to build their rapport naturally, and the warm crisp tones capture the seabreeze ease of the film. Regardless of your view on Koreeda, Broker is well worth a watch.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bae Doona, Baek Hyun-jin, Bek Hyun-jin, Choi Hee-jin, Choi Hui-jin, Gang Dong-won, IU, Kang Gil-woo, Kim Do-yeon, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Sae-byuk, Kim Sun-young, Kim Yae-eun, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Ga-kyung, Lee Joo-young, Lee Moo-saeng, Lee Mu-saeng, Lim Seung-soo, Oh Hee-joon, Oh Hee-jun, Park Hae-jun, Park Kang-seop, Park Kang-sup, Ryu Kyung-soo, Seong Yu-bin, Song Kang-ho, Song Sae-byuk

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda