Review: Here Lies Joe

Directed by Mark Battle and co-written with Pamela Conway, following the titular Joe (Dean Temple) and the events that unfold after meeting a woman named Z (Andi Morrow) at a suicide support group which change his outlook on life. Also starring: Timothy J. Cox, Mary Hronicek, J.P. Valenti and Kristie Stumpf Rork.One immediate and amusing factor is that our lead does genuinely feel like an average Joe, aptly named, down on his luck and struggling, a character for whom it’s easy to build sympathy for, Dean Temple does well to simultaneously keep the character relatively vague at the same time as holding onto the audience emotionally. Although ironically this is done while showing a fairly low range of emotion, this particular struggle comes across as more numbing and internal than manifesting itself in outbursts of feeling, which although it may not be as dramatic to watch, there’s a quiet, subtlety to it that can still make it come across on screen effectively. Morrow on the other hand as Z is much more verbal and physical which gives a good contrast of characters on the screen, it also adds extra energy to the film to balance out the rather solemn subject. There are elements, however, to her character which feel slightly too clichéd, the dark coloured clothes, piercings and morbid penchant for spending time in cemeteries, although arguably it could feasibly be very difficult to convince an audience of a character’s interest in death and suicide while exhibiting less all around dark tastes. One strong source of sympathy for Joe comes from the support group and Cox’s support group leader, Bill and his composure and facial cues which immediately resonate a sense of empathy and compassion, creating that classic reaction of wanting to help the wounded, in this case being Joe.

The film opens perfectly, the choices of camera angle, the muted colours, the focused view to create curiosity and intrigue, the clues as to how it has arrived at this point and, as mentioned before, the still, quietness of it, all of which do well to grab your attention. As the film goes on, that effect does seem to lessen as it becomes more a case of meandering while following Joe and Z, which is simply less sharp than its impressive start. It is of course showing a burgeoning friendship or relationship between the two principle characters which carries the wonderful sense of hope but the moments delving more into them as individuals come across as more meaningful than their interaction together.

Ultimately the film does move into much lighter territory than you’d expect from the chosen theme which is fairly unexpected, and it does make the direction of the film come across more obvious, removing a portion of the intrigue that’s been created. That being said, it is still an interesting and heartfelt film which does have a positive, hopeful message made in a stylish manner.

Verdict: 7/10

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