Joe Bell Plot Synopsis
Joe Bell tells the true story of a father who walked across America to raise awareness about teen bullying and suicide. It is a sad but hopeful story, anchored by an excellent performance by Mark Wahlberg as Joe and an equally brilliant performance from relative newcomer Reid Miller, who plays Jadin, Joe’s 15-year old son.
The movie is heartbreaking, not least because of the reasons behind Joe’s decision to embark on a personal crusade. Sadly, events take a tragic turn at the conclusion of this emotional drama so viewers should prepare themselves for a shock if they don’t already know what happened to Joe.
Why did Joe decide to walk across America?
On the 29th of February, 2013, 15-year old Jadin Book took his own life after being bullied and ridiculed by his classmates. Jadin was openly gay and this was the reason why he became the victim of physical and verbal abuse by his peers. According to the movie, the school did little to support him and so, feeling vulnerable and alone, he decided to hang himself.
Not wanting Jadin’s death to be in vain, Joe decided to honour his late son’s memory by walking across America and visiting schools and community groups to raise awareness about the effects of bullying. He planned to walk the 3,985-mile journey from La Grande to New York City. He chose New York because this was the place Jadin dreamed of moving to after leaving school.
Did Joe journey alone?
For most of his journey, Joe walked alone although, in the film at least, he sometimes had conversations with the imagined version of Jadin. However, there were also moments when Joe was joined by the people who wanted to support his message and mission.
After hearing about what Joe was doing, they travelled to find the grieving father to offer food, shelter, and plenty of friendly encouragement. One such person was the sheriff of Lincoln Country (played by Gary Sinise), another father of a gay son, who was able to offer Joe comfort and company.
Does Joe complete his journey?
Joe travelled across America for six months, spreading awareness about teen bullying and LGBTQ youth to anybody who would give him the platform to share his message. He had planned to journey for two years before returning home but as the film draws to an end, another tragedy occurs.
When walking across a two-lane highway in Eastern Colorado, Joe was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer. According to police reports, the driver of the vehicle had fallen asleep at the wheel before hitting Joe. News of his death came as a shock to all who knew him, including the sheriff who had met with Joe the day before his passing.
Joe’s death was heartbreaking and it’s a shocking conclusion to a film that is already steeped in tragedy. But as Joe made sure his son didn’t die in vain, others have made sure that Joe didn’t die in vain either.
What Happened After Joe’s Death?
After Jadin died, his friends and family started the anti-bullying organisation, ‘Faces For Change.’ As Joe embarked on his walk, donations were made to the organisation to support Joe’s mission and years after his death, the group still exists today. Check out their Facebook page to learn more.
Through the work of Joe and the people who have since taken the baton and shared his message, many schools have adopted anti-bullying policies and support systems for LGBTQ students. As Joe wanted schools to provide suicide prevention training to their counsellors, it is good to know that this eventually came about, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Joe’s death was undeniably a tragic one, as was the death of Jadin. Today, suicide is still the leading cause of death among young people, especially those who identify themselves as being gay and/or transgender.
According to The Trevor Project, at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S. This is a shocking statistic and it shows there is still a lot of work to be done. However, thanks to Joe’s message of awareness and the work of Faces For Change (and organisations like them), there is hope. Those who are considering suicide have more people and places to turn to due to the systems that have been put in place in schools and beyond.
What can you do to help after seeing the movie?
If you know somebody who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, be that because of the bullying they have received or for some other reason, you can offer your support to them. You can also donate to those groups that seek to prevent teen suicide.
And if you are somebody that is experiencing bullying, whether that’s because of your sexuality or not, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone. Seek support from any helpful party at your school, talk to your family if you can, and search online for any group that can help you.
Check the links below for support and information.
Read More: Joe Bell Movie Review
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