Dean Temple’s portrayal of Joe is moving and accurate for a man at his wit’s end. The performance is subtle and nuanced, and eruditely conveys the feelings of a man who has given up on everything. Andi Morrow’s Z is the classic manic-pixie-dream-girl, a breath of fresh air in the stilted, stagnant sadness that Joe’s life has become. Her performance is characterized by heavy kinetics, and sprawling movements, compared to Temple’s stillness. The pair complement one another effectively, and show us the yin and the yang of suicide through how her frenetic nature juxtaposes his stoicism. Their kindred nature goes against every belief that suicide is a lonely place meant to be traversed alone.
The supporting characters of the film come in the shape of the other members of the suicide awareness group. The scene plays as a dark comedy – they talk about overdosing on multi-vitamins, of having a clinically depressed goldfish, and of redrafting a suicide note. The scene is dark comedy at its finest, and played completely straight enough by the actors to result in tastefulness over vulgarity.
The only criticism that can be leveled at the film – and it’s not one that films of its ilk are unfamiliar with – is the characterization. The film ends with Joe being neither a sympathetic nor likeable character. He was just there. Perhaps this was the intention – to speak metaphorically about the suicide theme. Temple’s listless, defeated portrayal worked perfectly, and the actor did his utmost to bring the character to life. But Joe, as a character, had very little to offer. Or perhaps the lofty concept took over the character. Z, while more of a sympathetic and likable character, often straddled the line of manic-pixie-girl whose presence existed solely to personify the inner feelings of the male lead; though this was a very delicate straddling and veered away from it more often than not.
The film, overall, deals with a subject that is almost taboo to talk about – which probably inherently adds to the problem – and allows us to view a morbid and tragic concept through a fresh lens. At one point in the film Z refers to a statue in the graveyard as “perfectly morose”, and that itself is an apt way of describing the film. Here Lies Joe tackles suicide without romanticizing it, and suggests that life does go on. The subject is hit with a sledgehammer, but we are able to extract something very delicate from the fragments. Overall, Mark Battle’s movie is a very poignant take on what could potentially be a very vulnerable subject.
‘Here Lies Joe’ was brought to our attention by one of its actors, Timothy J Cox (@TimothyJCoxAct). You can support this film at the following links:
Written by James Cullen