Our First Look at Netflix's 'Joy' Proves That Sometimes Even Miracles Need a Little Help

Bill Nighy, James Norton and Thomasin McKenzie in "Joy"

Bill Nighy, James Norton and Thomasin McKenzie in "Joy"

(Photo: Netflix)

Sometimes even miracles need a little help. That's the basic premise of Joy, a Netflix film that chronicles the story of three people who worked together to bring one about: The birth of the first child conceived via the process that would become known as in vitro fertilization. 

For those who aren't aware, the process of in vitro fertilization was actually pioneered in Britain, by obstetrician Patrick Steptoe, biologist Robert Edwards, and nurse Jean Purdy. Thanks to their groundbreaking work Louise Joy Brown, the first test-tube baby, was born on July 25, 1978, in Lancashire. Her parents had been trying to conceive naturally for the better part of a decade, but her mother, Lesley faced complications from blocked fallopian tubes. Edwards was awarded the 2010 Nobel Price in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the development of in vitro fertilization; sadly, Purdy and Steptoe, who passed away in 1985 and 1988 respectively, were not eligible for consideration as the award is not given posthumously. 

Their collective work has been lauded as one of "the most remarkable medical breakthroughs of the 20th century" and the film's arrival could hardly be more timely, what with the recent court case in Alabama that has threatened access to the procedure for all of the state's residents (and could be seen as a precursor for further restrictions nationwide). 

Joy stars Bill Nighy (The Beautiful Game)  as Steptoe, James Norton (Happy Valley) as Edwards, and Thomasin McKenzie (Totally Completely Fine) as Purdy, and follows the story of the tireless, ten-year journey to make a miracle possible. 

Here's the film's synopsis.

Joy tells the remarkable true story behind the ground-breaking birth of Louise Joy Brown in 1978, the world’s first ‘test-tube- baby’, and the tireless 10-year journey to make it possible. Told through the perspective of Jean Purdy, a young nurse and embryologist, who joined forces with scientist Robert Edwards and surgeon Patrick Steptoe to unlock the puzzle of infertility by pioneering in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The film celebrates the power of perseverance and the wonders of science as it follows this maverick trio of visionaries who overcame tremendous odds and opposition to realise their dream, and in doing so allowed millions of people to dream with them.

Joy is directed by Ben Taylor (Sex Education) from a script written by Jack Thorne (Help). Thorne, who is also writing Netflix's upcoming Toxic Town, co-created the story with his wife Rachel Mason.

“It took Rachel and I seven rounds of IVF to have Elliott, so when the opportunity came to tell the story of the pioneers, I jumped at the chance," Thorne said in a statement when the film was first announced. "The more we discovered, the more amazed we were, at the audacity of the science and the lack of support from the scientific community. It is an incredible story.”

Joy is produced by Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey of the U.K.’s Wildgaze, which is best known for prestige U.K. features like An Education with Carey Mulligan. Cameron McCracken is an executive producer for Pathe. 

“I am a lifelong Jack Thorne fan, and it has been such a thrill to work with him and Rachel on my first feature film,” Taylor said. “As the proud father to two boys only made possible by IVF, this is a story extremely close to my heart. It’s an honor to bring to life the journey of this heroic trio, whose world-changing work was only achieved in the face of unimaginable opposition. Thomasin, James and Bill – together with the rest of the cast – are an embarrassment of riches. I’m delighted that Pathe, Wildgaze, and Netflix entrusted me with this brilliant story.”

A premiere date for Joy hasn't been announced yet, but Netflix says the film is "coming soon".  

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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