Coming to theatres from director Reinaldo Marcus Green and Roadside Attractions is a walk to finding answers for JOE BELL.
Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) lives in Oregon and is husband to Lola (Connie Britton) and son’s teen Jadin (Reid Miller) and young Joseph (Maxwell Jenkins). Rough and rugged, one day Jadin pulls Dad aside and tells him that he is gay. Joe tries the rugged approach and makes it out to be an ‘okay, is that it?’ reaction much to Jadin’s dismay.
Especially since the teen is dealing with difficulties at school with kids bullying him mercilessly. Jadin confides in friend Marcie (Morgan Lily) who tries to help him keep up a positive attitude about who he is. Even finding an unexpected romance can not ease the daily pain Jadin is feeling.
After the Bell family experiences tragedy, the only way Joe can deal with it is when he decides to walk across the United States to talk to kids about bullying. Doing it with the wisdom of Jadin, what begins to happen is that Joe discovers more about himself than he ever thought possible. More importantly, he is not the only one dealing with it as Marcie and Joseph wait patiently for Joe to come home.
Each step brings him closer to Jadin.
Wahlberg as Joe Bell brings the rough and tumble father character to this story. As what is happening to son Jadin unfolds, Wahlberg’s character tries to justify with a ‘well I supported your cheerleading what else do you want’ as his support. Frustrated because he refuses to admit that he does not know how to deal with his feelings, Wahlberg takes his character on the road. On the wide-open pavement, it becomes a story of memories, cringe worthy realizations and a hope to be a better person.
Miller as Jadin is such a heart-breaking character to watch. Trying to fit in, keep his sexuality down low and stay away from the young raging bulls, Miller shows us on screen the pain behind it all. When pain becomes the first thing you feel in the morning and the last thing you feel at night, someone has to give. Miller reminds us of those consequences and what it does to those left behind.
Britton as Lola is a woman who already has her hands full with a house of men. Trying to support a husband who is evasive, a son in pain and another son feeling left out, Britton’s character turns to the one thing that does not require anything of her and kills the pain. Jenkins as Joseph is a young man caught in the middle of everything and getting lose in the conflicts of the family. Clearly, he loves his parents, brother and wants a few moments of recognition of his own and it gets lost.
Shout out to Gary Sinise because he deserves every shout out that can be mustered. In JOE BELL he once again plays a character, even if its briefly, of a caring man who recognizes the pain of another human being.
Other cast include Tara Buck as Mary Ivy, Ash Santos as Kim, Blaine Maye as Boyd Banks, Igby Rigney as Chance, Austin Grant as Blake, Scout Smith as Colleen, Juan Antonio as Roy Holmes, Charles Halford and Gary Sinise.
Roadside Attractions has, since 2003, grossed over $300M and garnered nineteen Academy Award nominations. They have had critical and commercial hits such as MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, BEN IS BACK, BEATRIZ AT DINNER, HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS, WINTER’S BONE and THE COVER as well as so many others. For more information of what Roadside Attractions has to offer please visit www.roadsideattractions.com.
JOE BELL is based on a true story, and it will tug at your heart. As a proud sister of a gay brother who lost his fight for this life, I recognized the pain that Jadin felt frame after frame. There were so many conversations that we had about how to make the family see that ‘gay’ was not about hurting them but instead loving him unconditionally – and that was in 1987.
Watching the film also made me angry in the sense that if my brother David and I were dealing with this in 1987 and it is now 2021, how are we still having these discussions? Especially when the end results for some have been total and irreversible tragedy.
JOE BELL is a film that I would hope could be a teachable moment and one to be shared in schools. That would be something that would move me beyond words as young adults in a group setting tend to listen more when they share an experience and talk about it openly.
The cast does an amazing job telling the story of this young man and his father. Wahlberg and Miller are everything and more with twists and turns that gave me jaw-drop. Tissue worthy absolutely!
In the end – redemption is a journey you cannot take alone!