Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Gary Poulter, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Sue Rock
Gary is a 15 year old boy who searches for work in order to support his family. He comes across a burned-out man, Joe, who gives him work. Joe seeks to rein in his temper but as he notices the boy getting abused by his father humanity is aroused within, and although he tries to fight his on volatile temper, it eventually wins out.
Joe is a strange film. I’m not sure whether I enjoyed it or not. It’s very slow-paced, and the acting is certainly good, especially from Cage who has become something of a punchline (although he’s still one of my favourite actors and I will defend some of his recent films). But there are many things that took me by surprise. Firstly I never would have thought that this is the same director who took the helm of Pineapple Express, The Sitter, and Your Highness. It has an entirely different sensibility but the mood and tone of the film is handled in such a way that is completely different from those three films. Secondly, I did not expect that Gary’s father was plucked from the streets and thrust into the film. It’s shocking to read that he died only two months after filming because his performance was menacing and dangerous.
I liked the relationship between Gary and Joe, and there seemed to be equal time given to both characters. Joe was a violent man who seemed to be lost in a certain way of life, going about his empty routine without purpose, yet with Gary he’s offered a chance of a ‘normal’ life. Some scenes are brutal and difficult to watch, and although it’s slow pace will turn some people off I did find it involving. I also liked the glimpses given of Joe’s past, and it gives a sense that we’re only getting part of the story. Some people may not like this but it worked for me.
But it’s very much a character drama, with an ending that was fitting for the characters but felt a little anti-climactic. It does feel like the film is only giving us part of the story, and that’s where my issues with the film come from. I appreciate that it’s well-made and well-acted, but there’s something that just feels like it’s not gripping me as much as it should have, and I don’t think I had the emotional reaction at the end that the film seemed to be working towards. Having said all that I do feel it’s worth watching and even though it had a dark tone it doesn’t veer completely into misery porn territory.