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23 September 2021 Posted by 

OUR EMOTIONS ARE PULLED AT

Joe Bell - 3 Stars
A SEMI-BIOPIC that tugs on the heartstrings, while not necessarily practicing what it preaches.
Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) is walking across America - end destination; New York. Accompanying him seems to be his son Jadin Bell (Reid Miller), as he journeys across the country spreading an anti-bullying message at town halls, schools and AA meetings.
 
As the movie unfolds, however, we discover that Jadin took his own life. Joe’s walk of penance is murky in its reasoning, his wife Lola (Connie Britton) asking him the point of all of this and him being unable to explain what exactly he is trying to achieve. The film, therefore, is an exploration of Joe’s own reckoning with his guilt, and his redemption. 
 
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, Joe Bell is short at 93 minutes and snappy - it never drags, and always holds your interest. It’s also relatively compelling.
 
Our emotions are adeptly pulled at and tugged on in all the right ways throughout the piece, to create a genuine connection with the story and the material. Structurally, the piece intersperses two time periods rather than functioning linearly, which again adds an element of both pathos and intrigue, although outright surprise will be avoided by anyone who has seen the over-expositing trailer. 
 
The issues with Joe Bell stem from the story itself, and indeed the title gives it away - as much as there is a tragedy in the death of Jadin, the story is fundamentally Joe’s story. Which is counterintuitive to the extreme, given that the film itself has Wahlberg literally lament making Jadin’s story in his lifetime all about Joe, while simultaneously making his afterlife (and this film), all about Joe.
 
Then again, the story necessitates this because the only thing uncommon about this tale is the walk across America from the title character. The fact is, suicide, bullying, and discrimination are all too common to make a feature film out of, and that lends this movie a distinct air of sadness that we need Joe to craft a story out of Jadin. 
 
Nevertheless, this is a tight story told with feeling. It features a strong performance from Wahlberg, reminding us that he can act and not just run and shoot guns. It also introduces us to Reid Miller, who is magnetic on screen. 
 
Joe Bell does everything right in portraying grief on screen - it’s just a shame that focus is pulled from the tragedy.
 
Review by Jacob Richardson Creative Director | Film Focus www.filmfocusau.com
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editor

Publisher
Michael Walls
michael@accessnews.com.au
0407 783 413

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