When I was in grade school, I was bullied. Not because of something I did or said, but simply because I was different. My Dad was a Marine and our constant moving made me fresh prey. it was tough and hard to take on most days, but my Mom was always my champion through all the pain. She reminded me that one day the very thing I would be bullied and beat up for would assist in making my life and those around me richer than money could ever buy. I was one of the lucky ones.
Joe’s teenage son Jadin had grown into a beautiful, talented young gay man. Bullied by classmates and Joe’s ‘tolerance’ of his son only makes matters worse. He was so caught up in his own feelings and what people thought the he wan’t able to catch and heal the pain before it was too late. After Jadin’s untimely demise, Joe walks across America, speaking to school groups, communities, anyone who will listen, about the corrosive dangers of bullying.
Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, shift the cinematic landscape between Joe’s cross-country journey and scenes at home in Oregon alongside Jadin providing a twist that literally had my jaw dropped to my crack.
Director Reinaldo Marcus Green directs Mark Wahlberg right into one of his finest performances to date peeling the layers back on Joe like an onion as his empathy and humanity broaden. Reid Miller is a star. Period His radiant and exuberant transparent light envelopes him like a halo for this performance navigating the darkness that has become his sheer existence. The dialogue between Gary Sinise, Wahlberg and Connie Britton are just breathtaking and angst with all the complexity that comes with challenges, grief and simply being human.
With a plethora of producers including Jake Gyllenhaal and Drew Brees and based on a true story, Joe Bell left my heart tattered and eyes welling up into a unsuspecting ugly cry as I realized the true value of this father walking across the country was to spread word just how valuable and cherished a human being Jadin really was. Produced by Roadside Attractions, Joe Bell his theaters on July 23rd.