• Golden Globe Awards

Agnes Joy (Iceland)

There seems to be little joy in provincial Iceland. At least that is what the teenager Agnes (Donna Cruz) and her mother Rannveig (Katla Þorgeirdóttir) experience in Agnes Joy.  Set in the little coastal town of Akranes – about 49 kilometers from the capital Reykjavik – both women find that they are stuck in life and long to get out of there. Rannveig is bored with her job and her rather mundane and lonely life with her husband Einar (Þorsteinn Bachmann), who is hardly present.
Agnes is 19, tired of school and not very interested in the young men her own age, who do not share her interest in going to Reykjavik, whose city lights tempt her from across the bay. Mother and daughter clash as they disagree on Agnes’ future goals and how to achieve them, and Rannveig also clashes with her own mother, who does not want to stay at a home for elderly people, but still depends on her daughter to get by.
“I think their codependency is disguising their feelings of blame and shame,” says director Silja Hauksdóttir, who made her directorial debut in 2003 with Dís, based on a novel she co-wrote. “Plus, a generous amount of classic family issues, functioning as some kind of coping mechanism and these feelings are somehow in their gene pool because they are inherited from generation to generation and take away – or at least shrink – their ability to cope happily with themselves and their connection to each other.”
When Hreinn (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) arrives from the capital to live next door to the family, he ignites something in all three family members. Einar gets a new barbeque, Rannveig gets a bikini wax and a colorful lipstick and Agnes sees an opportunity to get to the big city. Mother and daughter also feel attracted to the new neighbor, who is well known from television and promotes himself as a film actor.
“Hreinn takes the focus away from the stale air of their household and brings some oxygen to their very mundane lives. Before he arrives, the three family members, mother, father, daughter – are isolated and alone, but after his arrival, they all feel somehow appreciated and seen. Having been so lonely for so long, his attention gives each of them the power to question the relationships they have with each other, which releases energy for the mother and the daughter to get up and make some mistakes. But Hreinn is I think that and only that, the match to their flame, the women themselves have to maintain and take care of their own fire.”
Agnes, who is adopted from the Philippines, is rebellious and refuses to visit her birth country as her parents have arranged. Feeling at home in Iceland, she is, however, often mistaken for a foreigner in a society, whose total population of 355,000 is predominantly homogenous.
“Agnes stands out as a POC in her community which isolates her and gives her loneliness more weight. We also wanted to explore how the difficulties in the mother/daughter relationship come from the personal issues and lack of communication.”