Here Lies Joe (2016) - Perhaps the only day we might wonder such a thing is at someone's funeral. That thing would be what might be our epitaph. For most of us anyway, but is it a question others might ask themselves more regularly? Would not being able to give a satisfying answer to that very question give you a reason to find the answer, something to hold onto?
Opening with a disheveled looking man duct taping his car windows and running a vacuum hose from the car's tailpipe through the window, he sits in a moment of contemplation as he starts the car, glancing at a smiley face drawn on the passenger side window with Xed out eyes. Flashback to earlier that very day as this man, Joe, is in a suicide anonymous meeting where he meets a brash if not carefree young woman, another member of the group who seems out of place with the other members. Her name is Z, and appropriately named as she seems like the last thing Joe needs right now, or maybe he's the first thing they both need right now.
The subject of suicide is not an easy one to portray on screen. Certainly the artistic community is no stranger to the subject, but portraying it well is just not good business in cinema. You just can't say to someone "don't do it" and change their lives. Everyone of us are as complex as the other and all aspects of who we are run deep.
Here Lies Joe is in touch with this. The script is really quite creative in foreshadowing itself. A single line uttered earlier in the story, seemingly trivial at the time, actually comes to bear so creatively later in the film, and life changing at that. Human resolve is a durable thing, but there is so much bombarding it at any one point that a fragile balance can be swayed in either direction by the minutia of a single moment in time. That minutia is at the heart of this story of two people's conflicting personalities being their own way of reaching out, and a hand to hold onto might seem so innocuous to the rest of us, but so very concrete to someone who needs it.
It may seem strange to call tension beautiful, of course it's not but it can be beautifully portrayed and that is exactly what is done in the early scene of the suicide anonymous meeting which sets the tone and more importantly delineates the characters. Timothy J. Cox plays Bill, the moderator of the meeting and conveys the tension in the room through an ever so subtly reactionary performance he masters so well. A perversely beautiful and gripping performance by Mary Hronicek as a member of the group paints a portrait of depression Rembrandt only wished he had the skill to do, and the reason why I am using the picture of her and Cox rather than the poster.
The main characters of Joe and Z are portrayed by Dean Temple and Andi Morrow respectively. Dean brings an outward portrayal of amiable dissonance to the character of Joe, nodding and faking his way through uncomfortable social interactions, while an undercurrent of frustration and amusement vie for first place in his world. Andi is necessarily and successfully deceptive in the role of Z, seemingly carefree and disruptive, a sexy free spirit who could have the world at her feet, yet it is a shroud for the way she and she alone sees herself.
For a 23 minute short subject this may seem like a lot to say about it, but then there you have it. Here Lies Joe is a successful character driven story which creates the narrative via those characters. It's not a rich tapestry of characterization, which would be defeating, but elemental, providing just enough to move the story along and provide the viewer with a connection.
I give it a full 5 Daggers, both for being the wonderful film it is and giving me so much to talk about; now that's the definition of film.
You can find out more about the film and some great behind the scenes stuff and interviews on Sweven Films' Vimeo page here.
Check out the film's IMDB page.