Mental Health Movie Review: Joe Bell

I came across the movie, Joe Bell while scrolling through Prime Video. The trailer caught my eye and after watching the film, I am excited to share my mental health movie review with you.

What’s the movie about?

Joe Bell is a movie based on a true story about a man and his family, focusing primarily on Joe’s son, Jaden. The film begins as Jaden is learning to navigate adolescence in a small town; a place that’s not tolerant of LGBTQ+ folx. As is all too common for teens coming out in such circumstances, Jaden faces homophobia and cyberbullying.

Jaden’s father, Joe, initially responds to his son’s coming out with hypermasculinity and it doesn’t go so well for either of them. He places emphasis on self-defense and physical toughness without fully taking the time to affirm and accept Jaden’s identity. Feeling misunderstood at home and facing bullying at school and online, Jaden’s short life ends tragically in suicide.

Riddled with grief, Joe Bell decides to walk across the United States, speaking at various venues to raise awareness about bullying, intolerance, and their impacts on mental health.

Mental Health Themes

Bullying, Suicide, and Grief

As a therapist working primarily with adolescents and young adults, my blood boils when my clients tell me about how bad the bullying is in middle and high school, especially for LGBTQ+ youth. With that in mind, it doesn’t take a genius to know how bullying can negatively impact a person’s mental health. I appreciate that Joe Bell uses his grief journey to raise awareness about this important issue.

I mentioned Jaden’s suicide earlier but, for the purposes of this review, I’ll just share some insights from my clinical work. In therapy, I’ve noticed that when LGBTQ+ teens face intolerance (bullying) in various settings, there tend to be higher rates of suicidal ideation and self-harm. Sometimes my clients are the bullies and you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve had to call out these behaviors, emphasizing their correlation with tragedies such as suicide… We’ve got a lot of work to do.

The movie also shows how people navigate the grief process differently. While Jaden’s mom initially self-medicates with alcohol following his suicide, Joe processes his grief by being out in the elements, which initially comes across as odd to his wife.

“When I told you to take a walk, I meant around the block, not to New York City.”

Noteworthy Quotes

“It’s a horrible thing to be surrounded by people who hate you, who don’t even know you.”

“I just made Jaden’s being gay all about Joe Bell. About me. Not my boy.”

School Counselor: “What about therapy?” Jaden: “I don’t need therapy, they (referring to the bullies) do.”

Conclusion

Joe Bell is a true story portrayed by Mark Wahlberg that serves as a reminder of our duty to spread kindness and acceptance in our spheres of influence. If you have Prime, you can watch Joe Bell for free. If not, you can rent it here (paid links*).

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2 thoughts on “Mental Health Movie Review: Joe Bell”

  1. Sounds like it’s an important reminder to parents about accepting kids who are different in some way to give them an anchor in the storm.

    1. Thanks so much for your continued support!

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