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TIFF 2020: “Good Joe Bell”


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Bullying is an important subject matter, and in fact, must be tackled from every angle. However, it does not matter how loud we speak about it, we as parents still fail to comprehend the entire problem fully. I understand the fact that the child we raise should be loved even with his/her faults. But that does not mean that our own blood and flesh must turn into a monster that will force one day someone to commit suicide.

Joe Bell is the epitome of a good and understanding father. He appears to be an excellent family man, good husband to his wife (Connie Britton) and a great father to his sons, Jadin (Reid Miller) and Joseph (Maxwell Jenkins). When his teenage son, Jadin confessed to him about being gay, Joe tried not to judge him. He tried to be supportive when he learns about Jadin being bullied in school. But when all the efforts were not fruitful and tragedy strikes the family, Joe embarks on a journey across America on foot to address the problem of bullying in school in honor of his son, Jadin.

Since it’s based on a true story, you, perhaps, know about its devastating ending. The film from the writing team behind “Brokeback Mountain”, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, introduces us to Jadin, a young vibrant gay man with a successful future ahead of him. He meets a brutal and vicious homophobic in his school, who was not really stopped by the principal or anyone else. An excellent performance from Reid Miller paints an image of Jadin as someone who could be strong and vulnerable as a child, if to break his soul.

As it touches upon an important subject matter, “Good Joe Bell”, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green falls short in his attempt. Structurally, as it tries to bring the audience to its conclusion, it offers a painfully slow start (as a fan of a slow-burning drama) that tries to redeem itself towards the end. Sadly, it takes the concept itself for granted, throwing focus on a variety of issues. To be fair, it’s not an easy story to tell. But it could work if certain elements of it were not part of the film.

Having said that, films should be able to trigger a conversation. It should make us frustrated, mad and angry. We must not only learn from it, we should act on it as soon as the film is over. Unfortunately, this film cannot manage the magnitude of the story nor deliver it, despite a heart-wrenching performance from Mark Wahlberg and Reid Miller, which is sad in a way, because it had full potential to be the year’s best film but ended up massively short.

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