- Starring Mark Wahlberg, Connie Britton , Reid Miller
- Written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry
- Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green
- Run Time 1h 30min
- Release Date July 23rd , 2021
The world can be pretty unforgiving if you don’t fit into a mold of what some people would call “normal”. While it is easy to find hate, what the we all really could use more of is compassion, especially when it comes to bullying. If you, like me have never heard of Joe Bell, do yourself a favor an hold off on the goggling until after, because Joe Bell the movie is best viewed with as little knowledge of the real story as possible.
Joe ( Mark Wahlberg) is a grieving father who after losing his son decides he has to do something. You see his son Jadin ( Reid Miller) was gay and his fellow class mates in his small town wanted him to know just how unwanted he was. Joe who just can’t come to grips with his son being gay suggest that he just “ kick their ass” as the response of Jadin telling him he is being bullied at school. While he means well, Joe is really trying to give his son what he thinks he needs and instead of admitting he is lost he often runs away from the problem rather than face it. Wahlberg who almost always plays macho guys who never really grow as a person by the end, nor express any vulnerability rally plays against type. While that’s not always a bad thing, you would hope that he would show some emotion once in a while instead of his stagnant acting style. Even though Joe Bell does break him out of that a little, mostly scenes he shares with Miller, he still does fall back into his old habits a little too often. After Jadin takes his own life, Joe thinks the way to honor him is to walk across the country to tell everyone he can of the downfalls of bullying. The film opens with Joe already on that walk and uses flash backs to tell the story that lead up to his decision. Written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (Brokeback Mountain) they tell a story that seems a little uneven and leaves more questions than answers. While we know the reason Joe is taking the walk, we never know the why. Is it to make amends with his son or is it his way to make something good come out of his son’s tragedy? Neither of which come into clear view.
What Joe is doing may seem like his heart is in the right place, but as a man he is pretty flawed, as he has a lot of anger, especially at his family, which we really never understand where that anger comes from. As his walk continues he finds himself among more people who can relate to him than the ones he wants to educate. Joe Bell while like title character has its heart in the right place and while the delivery is flawed and sometimes unfocused it still finds a way to produce some tears a few times. This is a story that while it happened in 2013 feels like it is being told in 1980, as he plays it like it is two steps back from the stories that have been told over the last few years. I do think Joe Bell is for some people, but its drawbacks keep it from ever reaching more than that select few.