Directed by Nora Jaenicke | Review by Helen WheelsA dark-skinned female hand lights a candle then grasps a rosary in prayer. Our attention is drawn to a photo of a Filipino family and we know immediately that this is her family. “Joyce” is, in fact, a tale of a Filipino woman who left her loved-ones behind to move to America and take a job as a nanny.
Jaenicke says she wants to bring awareness to this “tragic example of the fallout of capitalism and global inequality.” The tragedy she presents is the promise of wealth versus the reality of the cost of the dream. She shows us, within 30 seconds of this 30-minute drama, that this is a story of an immigrant woman who is alone. No unnecessary exposition is used to describe her situation. As the story unfolds, we begin to realize that it is a tale about a way of life, more than a single person’s story.
Joyce is quiet, not exactly sullen, but there is a feeling of sadness to her disposition. She goes to work, expressionless. The only time that she seems remotely happy is when she’s with Lisa. The nanny treats Lisa, the young girl that she takes care of as if she were her own daughter. There-in lies the key to this story. Many immigrant women leave their children behind in search of the American dream of wealth and prosperity. In the end, they care for someone else’s children because the cost of living in the promised land requires both parents to work.
As with Joyce, Jaenicke does a superb job of quickly drawing us into her character’s worlds with brief visual introductions that give us instant insight into their personality. When we meet Lisa’s mother for the first time, it becomes painfully obvious that she doesn’t know anything about her daughter. Lisa’s disappointment in her mother turns into misdirected animosity toward Joyce, expertly illustrating the trust the child has for this woman. Joyce remains stoic through it all, knowing this is her duty.
In the brief moments when we meet Lisa’s father, he is distant, and it’s obvious he doesn’t think of Joyce as a person so much as another bill to pay. Jaenicke explores this relationship between the parents and the nanny without preaching or judging. She presents each scene as a fact; this is Joyce’s life. Devoid of compassion for the woman cares for their child; this is their life. Joyce is merely an expense. There are many victims in this tragedy. The nanny who is alone in a strange land. The child who feels unloved by her parents. And, the parents who are stripped of their humanity in the pursuit of wealth.
Amidst the sadness emerges the bright light of a fellow Filipino nanny who a has somehow learned to enjoy life despite her circumstances. Joyce is by no means easy to get to know, though. She is reserved and doesn’t seem interested in developing any authentic relationships. However, her new friend is persistent, and Joyce soon realizes that she needs someone in her life who cares about her well-being. Hope blossoms with their relationship.
“Joyce” is a tender story about a tragic situation that happens all too often for Filipino and other immigrant women. No one should have to leave the people they love behind to earn enough money to live. It’s also a warning about the danger of pursuit of wealth over relationships.
Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications. Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.