The Story Behind the Smile: Joker



Firstly, an incredible film! Joaquin Phoenix played Joker perfectly – the mannerisms, the body language and of course the smile. The same way that Robert Downey Jr is Iron Man, Phoenix is Joker.

The film opens with a visibly sad man forcing his facial muscles into a smile in front of a dingy mirror and, it struck a nerve with me. How many times have we entered a new day feeling awful about ourselves but have to plaster a big fat smile on our faces because life must go on? Director, Todd Phillips, introduces mental health as a prominent theme by opening with such a strong scene filled with silence. A suitable movie to watch if you decide to take a trip to the cinema during Mental Illness Awareness Week.

We are introduced to pre-Joker, Arthur Fleck, rejected by society and deemed a ‘weirdo’ because of his mental condition that results in an uncontrollable laughter called pseudo-bulbar affect or PBA. A particular scene that stood out was when Arthur wrote in his tattered diary, “the worst thing about mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t have one”. Yes, society has taken some steps forward in their approach towards mental health but in my opinion there still remains some stagnancy. A lot of people are uncomfortable with discussions surrounding mental health, which is fair enough however, that discomfort only results in more harm than good. People like Arthur are outcasted, mocked and forced to ‘go get their happy’. This is illustrated brilliantly through Arthur’s relationship with his mother who was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, as well as his interactions with work colleagues and the general public. A police-officer laughed in his face and asked whether his mental condition was a ‘clown thing’.

To summarise, Joker is an extremely impressive movie. The director did a really great job of illustrating Arthur’s evolution and growing confidence resulting in the birth of Joker. A gripping psychological thriller with what some might say is an interesting soundtrack featuring Frank Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’, Joker is a must watch! For some viewers, Arthur’s transition into Joker may have been uncomfortable to watch and some may feel as though Arthur’s humanity was not projected in the same respect as his villainous side.

 Hopefully a sequel is on the rise to see what and who Joker encounters.


Written by Precious (@teawithp_)

Subomi Odanye