Biography Drama

Turning Tragedy into Hope: A TIFF Review of ‘Good Joe Bell’

September 19, 2020Ben MK

Approximately one in five school-aged children have to contend with bullying every year — a sobering statistic made even more impactful when you consider the serious emotional and psychological toll bullying takes on those affected by it. Of course, one of the primary ways of combating bullying is to raise awareness of its harmful effects, and that's just what Mark Wahlberg's character sets out to do in the real-life drama Good Joe Bell.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, the film follows a father of two named Joe Bell (Wahlberg), a blue collar everyman from La Grande, Oregon who embarks on a cross-country walk across America in honor of his son, Jadin (Reid Miller), a victim of anti-LGBTQ bullying. Leaving behind his wife, Lola (Connie Britton), and other son, Joseph (Maxwell Jenkins), Joe begins his slow trek towards New York City, aiming to spread a message of forgiveness and tolerance at every stop he visits along the way. Those who know Joe, however, will realize that he also has a good deal of work to do on himself when it comes to accepting others as they are. And when Joe's media presence begins to overshadow his message, even Joe begins to wonder if his heart is in the right place.

A tale of redemption and about giving a voice to the voiceless, the end result will speak to anyone who's ever been touched by bullying. At the end of the day, though, one mustn't forget the tragic true story that lies at its heart. After all, it's one thing to be sympathetic towards a cause, but it's another thing altogether to take those sympathies and to channel them towards action effecting genuine change.

Good Joe Bell screens under the Gala Presentations programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 30 min.

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