The Russian travelling circus “Joy” promises joy to the outside world – and not just in name. Behind the scenes the tone is rather harsh, unless there’s a party going on: life is dominated by jealousies, small and bigger cruelties. In a debut film full of wit and tragedy, Daria Slyusarenko portrays great artistic dreams in a small tent and four people who, each in their own way, cope with life in the circus.
Their permanent tour takes them through small towns where only a few kids are still enthusiastic about snakes, parrots and clown acts. Otherwise the tiers remain mostly empty. The tent is run-down, the animals are tired, “Joy” has seen better days. The nomadic life isn’t easy for the artists either: putting the tent up and down, in pouring rain and stormy weather, the only retreat is the mobile home and money is tight at every turn. The show still goes on, without artistic compromises. When Yana turns up, after many years of working in Europe, and becomes clown Valeriy’s new partner, enthusiasm spreads. While the two rehearse ambitiously, the animal dressage couple struggles to keep up the status quo and the stars of the ring together. A portrait of bittersweet circus life that comes amazingly close to its characters.