Every once in a while Mark Wahlberg stars in a film that surprises you. What I mean is that we are used to seeing him in dumb humour comedies like Ted or Daddy’s Home 2 or action films like Transformers: The Last Knight or Contraband. It is the change-ups that end up being his best reviewed films. In the past, films like The Departed and The Fighter have been amongst his best reviewed. Now he is back with another different film in Joe Bell.
Based on a true story (like The Fighter), this is about a father (Mark Wahlberg) who decides to go on a cross country walk to bring awareness to an issue which has touched his family. Joe Bell and his family live in a small town in Oregon. He is a working-class man who lives a rather simple life. Being the kind of man he is and brought up in the type of town they live in when his son Jadin (Reid Miller – has appeared in episodes of television’s Criminal Minds and You) is revealed to be gay.
While he is working this out he also discovers that Jadin is being bullied at school for being gay. Not sure how to deal with this or make it stop after it is made clear that the principal is not going to do anything, Joe decides that he can bring awareness to bullying by embarking on a solo walk across the U.S.
The script for the film was written by long time author and screenwriter, Larry McMurtry (Brokeback Mountain, The Last Picture Show), it is a film which aims for and packs an emotional punch. Sometimes to the gut. As brave Joe and Jadin are we see that not always in real life that things are tied up with a pretty bow.
Though this is a painful film to watch at times because of the cruelty one or a bunch of humans heaps upon another and how homophobia still runs rampant throughout society, there is still a beauty to it. Whatever side of the human condition coin they are coming at you from there will most likely be tears welling up in your eyes as a result.
As stated, Wahlberg is not the first actor who would come to mind for a role like this. That being said he does a good job here. The uber masculine side of his character seems like a no brainer, it is the fighting for a gay son side that seems a stretch. Yet he turns in a performance with is believable. All his stops on his walk involve him talking at schools and town centres about bullying and the damage it does. How important kindness and tolerance are.