City of Joy is a spiritually sensitive film version of Dominique Lapierre's book set in the slums of Calcutta, India. Director Roland Joffe presents a poignant picture of everyday heroism through the stories of a burnt-out American doctor and an impoverished Indian rickshaw puller.
In an interview with Values & Visions (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat's magazine published in the 1990s), Joffe identified one of the film's themes as a fundamentally religious and spiritual one the enhancement of life. "Under stress human beings reveal who they really are. We are all survivors; that is what we have in common. What is most important is how a person manages to survive. True heroism lies in the quality of that daily struggle." The characters in this film learn that life can be enhanced by caring, commitment, and community.
Another theme, compassionate service, is reflected in the quotation on the screen at the end: "All that is not given is lost." City of Joy is an ideal text for a curriculum on service. It illustrates why we must be careful not to violate the integrity of those we help. It reveals how service brings us face-to-face with our limitations and our need for others. And it shows how in the unique equation of compassion, we usually get back more than we have given.
Best of all City of Joy is an uplifting portrait of love in action. Doing the right thing for the right reasons can be life transforming.