JOE BELL (2021)
Strong performances from Mark Wahlberg and Reid Miller elevates the moving story of acceptance, understanding, and redemption based on the tragic true story.
After his son Jadin (Miller) commits suicide after being continuously bullied for being gay, Joe Bell (Wahlberg) walks from Oregon to New York City to spread a message of anti-bullying in tribute to his late son. Joe Bell, written by Brokeback Mountain writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, is a moving film that mainly focuses on the journey of Wahlberg’s titular character. Though Wahlberg may not be everyone’s first pick for a role such as this, his casting is arguably spot-on; his persona as an actor is shelved here for a reflective, sensitive, and sentimental performance that is hands down one of his best. Through the experiences of young Jadin, as portrayed through a truly magnificent, emotionally charged performance by Miller, Joe Bell depicts bullying in its rawest forms. Connie Britton and Gary Sinise also deliver impassioned performances, the latter of which may be notable come awards season.
Though the storytelling structure is formulaic and familiar in many ways, it works well here, hooking viewers from the beginning and keeping the film flowing in its tight 90-minute runtime. The film never becomes “preachy,” as so many films with important messages are often accused of. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green has crafted an accessible film with core messages that deserve to be tackled in film time and time again as experiences like Jadin’s continue to plague LGBTQIA youth. My simple wish is that these films would reach those who most need to see them. Perhaps Wahlberg’s involvement will help.
Joe Bell is now playing in theaters.
Photo from Roger Ebert