In order to provide for his destitute family of drifters, a likable, sincere, able-bodied 15-year-old boy comes to hire on among a burned-out ex-con's group of aging forest laborers. As the man becomes more and more aware of the boy's abusive home life, his deeply buried humanity is roused. Drinking and smoking incessantly to remain detached from his volatile temper, he finally takes the matter into his own hands - come what may - when the boy's alcoholic father finally goes too far.Written by
David Gordon Green often casts locals in his movies. Gary Poulter was a homeless man in Austin. Poulter died on the streets of Austin on Feb. 19, 2013, 2 months after filming ended. See more »
When Gary takes off his vest by Joe's truck, his shirt pulls up and a microphone cable is visible going into his waistband. See more »
Hey, you old man, you look at me. I got som'in' to say to you. Every time we land someplace new, you say it's gonna be different, but it ain't. You mess up... a lot... then you leave a mess for me and Momma and Dorothy to clean up, and that ain't right. That's all I'm sayin'. Hell, I do what I gotta do. You do whatever the hell you want - whatever you can get away with. You're just a... selfish old drunk. Yeah, that's what you is. Yeah, this place is gonna be after us. Hell, ...
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This is one of the darkest, bleakest films I have seen in a long time. All characters, without any exception, are unhappy souls, surviving in a grim world, unable to improve their lives, prone to an almost genetically determined urge to mess things up.
The image of rural America this film paints, is almost like that of a third world country. Most men have a cigarette in one hand and a bottle in the other. Dysfunctional families live in decaying shacks, without money or food. Violent dogs are barking everywhere. Disagreements are settled by fistfights or, in some cases, by bullets. The only community centres are a grocery store and a whorehouse. Homeless people are killed for a few dollars and a bottle of liquor.
The central character is Joe, an outstanding role from Nicolas Cage. He is a loner, living on the edge of society, earning a living by poisoning trees so that they can be removed legally. He hires workers on a daily basis, one of them being a 15 year old kid who regularly gets beaten up by his alcoholic father. They get to like each other, but when the boy seeks Joe's protection, things get out of hand.
The main characteristic of the film is the gloomy atmosphere, emphasizing the desolate hopelessness. The cinematography is stark and bare, with only the soundtrack adding some effect. The acting is very effective. Above all the part of the boy's father is worth mentioning. It is played by a local homeless man, who apparently died a few weeks after shooting was finished.
Some reviewers compared 'Joe' tot 'Mud'. An obvious similarity is Tye Sheridan, who plays the same sort of role in both films, as a young kid who befriends an older man. But to me, 'Joe' had much more in common with 'Winter's Bone'. This film was also set in rural America, with Jennifer Lawrence as a teenager trying to keep her dignity in a world of violence and dysfunctional families.
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