Sydney Film Festival: Joe (2013)

Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in Joe (2013)

Joe begins with violence; a man strikes his son, and shortly afterwards is beaten himself by unseen assailants. Violence begetting violence in a world defined by masculinity. Joe tells us of the struggle to be a man for fifteen year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) and Joe (Nicolas Cage) alike, the latter taking a shine to the former after hiring him. The narrative sounds familiar, but it’s thankfully the least interesting thing about this excellent film.

Joe is elevated by its environment; it’s a small Southern American town defined by decrepitude and decay while surrounded by dense forest, ancient pillars of nature. It has the ring of authenticity, thanks to David Gordon Green’s choice to use non-actors and improvisation. The masculine backbone of the film supports themes of race, poverty and deeper moralistic contemplation without resorting to overemphasis or didacticism.

Mostly, it’s just astoundingly well-made, with Gordon Green’s typical naturalistic, Malickian poetry opening up into dark humour and brutal violence alongside genuine beauty, all tied together with perfect editing and an amazing soundtrack. Cage’s performance is good, but the real revelation is Gary Poulter, the (now deceased) non-actor playing Sheridan’s father, who chillingly embodies the malignant tumour of incoherent, incapable anger at Joe’s heart.

4.5 stars

8 thoughts on “Sydney Film Festival: Joe (2013)

    • I do seem to be in the minority liking it this much; most other critics I’ve chatted to thought it was either okay or above average. I can kinda understand that response based on the narrative – which is hardly original – but there’s so much more to the film than the story!

  1. Loved this movie. Very disturbing, yet, emotionally compelling as well. And that’s just my thoughts on the movie itself. As for Cage’s performance, it’s something of a work of beauty in the only way a class-act like him can deliver. Good review.

  2. Pingback: Sydney Film Festival Roundup | ccpopculture

    • Cheers, and good to see someone else liking this one! I feel like I’m in minority holding in such high regard but, hey you gotta go with your gut!

      • I saw it at the festival I helped cover for Flixchatter. My own review was possibly more positive than yours. 🙂

        So I quite agree.

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