Joe Bell

For this week’s movie therapy I skipped over Old and Snake Eyes for the less popular option of Joe Bell. The trailer is outstanding, featuring the song The Joke by one of my favorite artists, Brandi Carlisle. And, being a product of the funky bunch generation, I am a huge Mark Wahlberg fan. That has nothing to do with acting, I’m just a fan.

Joe Bell is based on the true story of a father who loses his openly gay son Jadin (Reid Miller) to suicide, and Joe’s attempt to walk from Oregon to NYC to raise awareness on bullying. He wants to talk to anyone and everyone about tolerance and acceptance to honor his late son.

Admittedly, I do not remember hearing about this story in the news when it happened back in 2013. There are moments when the film assumes I already knew the story, and I felt both guilty and a little lost. I caught up pretty quickly with the upsetting flashbacks and painful realization that Joe wasn’t necessarily all-in on Jadin’s coming out.

I don’t think we are supposed to be particularly proud of Joe, because he isn’t. The self doubt is actually touching and relatable, and it catches up with him on his journey.

Reid Miller is a sparkle. His portrayal of Jadin is perfectly full of fear, courage, and teenage hormones. He provides a touchstone to the awareness Joe believes he is preaching – but he is actually in search of for himself. Connie Britton comes in strong as always as Lana, Jadin’s mom, still keeping her family moving forward through tragedy.

This film falls short of bringing anyone to change their minds about how they feel about acceptance and love of ALL people, especially our kids. There’s little persuasion or “a-ha” moments like we’ve seen in other films on this subject. In fact, more is hidden than is revealed. In other words, I didn’t cry. But, this movie also doesn’t claim to be anything more than it is.

We don’t always get it right as parents, as people. And that sucks. It’s scary, and it’s heartbreaking, and we find out we’re still learning nearly every day. What part of our lives do we choose to see? What do we choose to share? Why not all of it?

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