The coming-of-age genre is taken in atypical directions in Iceland’s Agnes Joy by focusing on an entire family, specifically the parents, as they react to their increasingly rebellious nineteen-year-old daughter’s behaviour. Agnes (Donna Cruz) isn’t happy and does not pull her punches: her perspective of her parents’ union is made clear in a heart-breaking early scene where she accuses them of adopting her to save their marriage.
This general sense of unhappiness and unease within the family is shaken by the arrival of new neighbour Hreinn (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), a middle-aged actor who Agnes’ mother Rannveig (Katla M. Þorgeirsdóttir) invites to a barbeque the next night. Rannveig unashamedly flirts with him and her husband’s complete lack of jealousy speaks to how far beyond broken their marriage is. They don’t share the same bed, but neither will acknowledge their daughter as being correct. Hreinn’s arrival is timely as Agnes sees him almost as a beacon of light, an adult outside her family who she can confide in.
Agnes Joy is filled strong performances that bring the film’s fantastic screenplay/script to life. It is a film that can become incredibly emotional in seconds, all without a hint of awkward sentimentality. The unique approach also plays a major part in the growth that both parents experience over the 100 minutes runtime. Crafting such a quality debut feature, director Silja Hauksdóttir has announced herself as a director worth following.
Agnes Joy is screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Australia