The long walk to kindness has a heart.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Joe Bell, a man walking across country to spread the word about effects of bullying, because of how it lead to the suicidal death of his gay son Jaden. The biopic, titled “Joe Bell,” is about the hardships of a family who has to go through this tragedy, and as a routine as it seems at times, it has its heart in the right place.
Set in 2013, we see Joe walking and bonding with Jaden’s (Reid Miller) spirit in between his seminars. When he was alive, Jaden was a cheerleader, who was gazed at school, while his father warned him that their Oregon town is full of homophobics. The young lad was also dating a football player, who which didn’t last long, and all the high school tormenting lead to him hanging himself.
When Joe is traveling, he also struggles with his connection with his other son Joseph (Maxwell Jenkins) and his wife Lola (Connie Britton). He takes out his anger on them, and she tells him not to come home until he figures out his situation and when Jaden tells him to.
“Joe Bell” was directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, whose feature debut was “Monsters and Men.” That Indie was focusing on African-Americans against police brutality. This one is about standing up against homophobia, and one man’s emotions about that. It was also produced by Wahlberg, Jake Gyllenhaal and Cary Joji Fukunaga, who all provide empathy in the main father’s travels.
Wahlberg has the courage to portray an angry and determined father, who loves his son, and wishes they could live in a world without hate. Hatred is what killed Jaden, and that’s no exaggeration. I may be straight, but I have respect for the LGBT community; I even know and met people with those interests.
As time progresses, most of all have been developing sympathy for these people, and it’s wrong to think they’re going to Hell for loving men or women, depending on their equal genders.
You also get some good performances from Miller, who tears make you cry when his real-life character dealt with the torments, and Jenkins, who has his sentimental moments as the other son. And you have a cameo from Gary Sinise as a sheriff, who tells Joe that he regrets taking his job too seriously to love his gay son.
As with road trip films like “Easy Rider,” “Into the Wild,” and “Leave No Trace,” I love how beautifully photographed they are. The cinematography was done by Jacques Jouffett, whose also worked on Wahlberg’s movies like “Deepwater Horizon” and “Patriot’s Day.”
Routine moments involve romance and friendships with very little pay-off. That or they weren’t as compelling or examined as they should have been, but I didn’t come see “Joe Bell” for them. I came to see the film conveying on the kindness towards gay people. The other reviews for this film have been mixed and Rotten Tomatoes’ score is about 40%. I still liked for its heart and respect for the LGBT community and for both Wahlberg and Miller being human.