Movie Review: “Joe Bell” is noble and heartfelt, but flawed due to it’s tough story

“Joe Bell” is a tough movie to review because the story that’s being told is both worthy of being told to the highest degree, but also extremely difficult of being told to an audience that well.

Mark Wahlberg plays the title character, a man who didn’t publicly embrace his gay son and was unable to prevent the bullying he constantly received in their small Oregon town. After a family tragedy, Bell then decides to walk across the country to educate others on the dangers of bullying.

It’s a joyless and difficult experience to watch, not necessarily because of the production, but because of the care taken with the story here and the restrictions it forces on to the narrative.

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green works within those restrictions but can’t unclump the emotion everyone in this movie is feeling. Even at it’s brief 1 hour and 34 minute run time, he’s forced into a lot of unnecessary shots of his stars on the phone, and a lack of progress that doesn’t make us feel but sorrow.

Reid Miller is the film’s heart and soul as Jadin, Bell’s bullied son. Connie Britton is also her usually dependable self as his mom and Bell’s struggling wife.

But at the end of the movie, I felt depressed and confused. There was also no real call to action or closure on what we saw, and while it chooses to be creative on the bad, it passes on the opportunity to give us a good direction to move in. We needed some hope here really bad.

In the end, a Joe Bell documentary could serve the purpose much better.

Joe Bell

GRADE: (Because of the subject matter, the Opinion will not be issuing a grade)

Rated: R

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

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