A married man falls for a trans woman JoylandThe first Pakistani feature in the ear game. Sim Sadiq’s Atmospheric Uncertain Regard play also explores a whole family, depicting a group separated by modernity and tradition in contemporary Lahore.

Haider (Ali Junejo) is happily married to Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq). But when she gets a job as a backing dancer for glamorous trans performer Biba (Alina Khan), her eyes are opened to another life – and perhaps another way of love. Meanwhile, his wife is frustrated with the prospects of the patriarchal society in which she lives, and much less enthusiastic about the possibility of bringing another son into the family (she has a brother-in-law’s daughter, for everyone’s frustration).

The Joyland The title is an amusement park that provides an escape for many of the group, dancing with the group or screaming their pain at the fairground ride.

Haider prepares for a silent compulsive leadership: a man is oppressed by his father’s conventional expectations, and he is more sensitive than he dares to admit. His wife is a sad personality: a smart woman who deserves more than many. But the most distinctive character is Biba, a pre-op trans woman who makes a living through outdoor dance – sometimes in front of a large, relatively mainstream audience, sometimes for a small group of obscene, sexually aggressive men.

The relationship between Haider and Beaver is strained – we’re never sure how far it will go, or what will drive Haider. There is a suggestion that she may be attracted to men, which annoys Biba, who identifies as female. And yet there is a real tenderness between these two lost souls, both living lives for which they have not signed up. Biba’s bold move to change her gender encourages Haider to live more honestly according to his own sexuality. But it can be a cost.

Joyland There is a vivid feeling of space, not so much created by its geographical background as its characters. The rituals of daily life are given detailed attention, whether it is a family celebration or a dance group rehearsal. Most sensitively restrained, it packs an unexpected intestinal punch towards the end of the film, where it shifts the focus to a worthy subject and throws another main character.

Perhaps it is meant to reflect the protagonist’s point of view, although it leaves some of the story in the air. But Joyland A thoughtful, well-performed and captivating drama remains set in a culture that is changeable, and not always easy.

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