The new movie “Joe Bell” is the true story of a father who lost his gay son to suicide all because of high school bullying. To honor his son, Joe Bell decides to walk across the country by himself to raise awareness to the tragedy of bullying.
Bullying has been a problem in schools for many years, and due to social media and other reasons, this issue has gotten even worse over time resulting in extreme anguish, depression and suicide for too many children around the world. Bulling has always been considered a generic human reality, part of the ride of that comes around during childhood. But bullying also exists in adulthood, even during our working lives. In all cases, bulling can cause extreme psychological and physical damage to the victims, ultimately causing all of us to ask why it exists in the first place. What is it within certain people to temporarily feel good about themselves by making someone else feel horrible about themselves? What is the gain here? Do people who bully lack so much empathy, that they just cannot stop relentlessly torturing someone else? Bullying is also an issue not isolated to boys, girls can be just as bad or worse when it comes this tragic problem.
The story of Joe Bell is one of those true events where the movie rights are bought by someone with clout, in this case, Mark Wahlberg who stars as Joe Bell. This story is a very impressive one with a great message and a double tragedy. The problem with this film is there is not enough story to tell to make it an engrossing two hour movie. The screenwriters decided to tell this story backwards, beginning with Joe Bell on his cross country walk, next to his imaginary deceased son intermixed with flashbacks. Sometimes the flashback method of storytelling can work, and other times, it can make the story hard to follow. I thought this story would have been better told in chronological order.
What happens to Joe’s son Jadin, played by Reid Miller, is told well enough with much of the bulling depicted in this movie very hard to watch. Joe Bell gives speeches at high schools during his walk across country and I thought more of these speeches would have resulted in a better movie with less walking scenes and more emotional speeches, trying to educate young people about the damage they are causing too many young people with their cruelty. There are a few good scenes with Wahlberg and actor Gary Sinise who is a local Sheriff who also has a gay son.
Due to the great message and good acting in this movie, I was very surprised at the extremely low 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 5.2 on IMDB. My rating for this movie is about 70%, mainly because the true story and message are both so strong. I give a marginal recommendation to Joe Bell.