Showing: Wed 25 June @ 20:40 & Sat 28 June @18:00 // Filmhouse 1
Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Gary Poulter
Running Time: 117 mins
Director David Gordon Green has been returning to his indie roots. Known for daft stoner and frat movies such as Pineapple Express and The Sitter in more recent years, Prince Avalanche last year proved to be a touching comedy-drama. Now he’s moving even further away from comedy by choosing to adapt Larry Brown’s 1991 novel Joe; a bleak Southern tale of fathers and sons.
Joe (Nicolas Cage) is an ex-convict and recluse who runs a small forestry business. After teenager Gary (Tye Sheridan) comes to him looking for work, Joe finds himself acting as a surrogate father and mentor as well as his boss. The more that’s revealed about Gary’s family life -and in particular his abusive, alcoholic father- the more Joe finds himself unable to not intervene, despite the consequences.
These tales of dirt poor rural America are becoming commonplace, and have been done to varying degrees of success. Winter’s Bone and Mud are both excellent examples of the sub-genre, and while Joe may not quite measure up to either of these titles, there is still plenty to admire here. Not least the performances; Cage is uncharacteristically restrained, and gives his most measured and affecting turn in years. Sheridan also impresses here as he did in the aforementioned Mud, and first time actor Gary Poulter is excellent as his alcoholic father (he also sadly passed away during post production).
Themes surrounding masculinity and the eventual displacement of power that comes with paternal relationships are dealt with maturely, however it does feel a little overwrought at times. Some of the more undesirable elements of certain characters are exaggerated to the point of caricature, and too often plot lines feel a little forced and on the nose. This thankfully doesn’t detract too much though from what is often a thought-provoking and unashamedly dark piece.