Comfort and Joy (1984)

PG   |    |  Comedy


Comfort and Joy (1984) Poster

Radio host Alan Bird witnesses how an ice cream van is attacked and destroyed by an angry competitor. This leads him into the struggle between two Italian families, the Bernardis and the ... See full summary »

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6.9/10
1,496

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  • Eleanor David and Bill Paterson in Comfort and Joy (1984)
  • Bill Paterson in Comfort and Joy (1984)
  • Bill Paterson in Comfort and Joy (1984)
  • Patrick Malahide and Bill Paterson in Comfort and Joy (1984)
  • Alex Norton and Bill Paterson in Comfort and Joy (1984)
  • Bill Paterson in Comfort and Joy (1984)

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18 December 2014 | l_rawjalaurence
7
| Whimsical Growth of Awareness Comedy
It's instructive to look at Bill Forsyth's mid-Eighties comedy in light of the Alan Partridge cycle of television shows, in which Steve Coogan portrayed a monstrously egotistical radio presenter completely unaware of the fact that everyone hates him, and would rather see him off the airwaves as soon as possible. Likewise Bill Paterson's "Dickie" (actually Alan) Bird comes across as someone so wrapped up in his radio persona that he cannot see what's happening around him. In the ersatz world of jingles, pop music, and inane chatter, he is a big star; to everyone else he is nothing but a pain. It's thus hardly surprising that his long-time girlfriend Maddy (Eleanor David) chooses to move out.

Set around Christmastime in the center of Glasgow, COMFORT AND JOY looks as if it might be a highly ironic title for a film whose central character cannot find inner peace, and who becomes unwittingly involved in a turf war between rival ice cream sellers. What makes Bill Forsyth's film so endearing is the way he shows so many people making mountains out of emotional and personal windmills. Glasgow is sufficiently big to accommodate both the McCool cartel led by the Mafia-style boss (Roberto Bernardi), as well as the more fly-by- night outfit led by Trevor (Alex Norton). It is simply pride - as well as other issues - that prevents them from arriving at a deal.

As the action unfolds, however, so Alan/Dickie undergoes something of a change of character. He finds out that he can make things happen - not by trying to sustain his arrogant radio persona, but rather treating people on their own terms. He manages to find a particularly satisfying resolution to bring the two sides in the ice cream war together, leaving him ready and willing to face the world with renewed vigor. He might be on his own on Christmas Day, but he understands the importance now of maintaining relationships, both personal and public.

Shot in muddy color in perhaps the most anti-Thatcherite of cities, COMFORT AND JOY offers a glimpse of life beyond the mid-1980s illusion of prosperity and individual self-improvement. People struggle to survive in this city in whatever way they can, even if it means selling ice cream for a living. Their world deserves to be recognized, even though very different from English life at the same time.

The film is replete with memorable cameos, from Scottish actor Rikki Fulton's Hilary - Alan's smooth-talking boss who thinks his star employee has gone barking mad - to C. P. (aka Clare) Grogan's stellar turn as Charlotte. COMFORT AND JOY might be a film with a morally soft center, but it manages to make some acute social observations along the way.

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