As his feature debut, filmmaker Saim Sadiq offers a “totally fictional, yet autobiographical” narrative. Understand by this that this work is the fruit of an amalgam of things felt and experienced since childhood by a young man who had never been manly enough, he said, to live in a patriarchal society, let alone respond to his requirements.

Yet that is what Haider (Ali Junejo) resigns himself to doing, a young man suffering from the dissatisfaction of his family with him, particularly that of the patriarch, who summons him to make a “man” of himself by finding a job and becoming a father. In this stifling dynamic, Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), Haider’s wife, is the only one who looks at him lovingly, no doubt appreciating the more sensitive character of this man like no other. The filmmaker makes this young woman a superb character. It is she who earns the living of the couple while the husband is unemployed.

Built around a budding love affair between the young man and Biba (Alina Khan), the cabaret’s trans revue leader where he finally landed a little job and for whom he can’t help but feel feelings, the story is based on the eternal dilemma between tradition and modernity. And subtly mixes intimate and social concerns.

Avoiding the expected clichés, Saim Sadiq exposes the complexity of the feeling of love and refuses any Manichaeism in his story. The illustration of the entertainment world remains rather sober, despite its inherently flamboyant character. But make no mistake. Joyland also has an eminently political aspect, and this scene where Haider transports a huge Biba billboard on his motorbike through the streets of Lahore is a nice nod to this. Although the two films have nothing in common, we will also be tempted to establish a link with Close, a feature film directed by a filmmaker from the same generation (Lukas Dhont), who also questions the consequences that have the codes of masculinity on those who cannot match them.

Winner of the Un Certain Regard section and the Queer Palm – a first for a Pakistani production at Cannes – Joyland is on view in its original version with French subtitles.