Brokeback Mountain writers reunite for new film about bullied gay teen who tragically died by suicide
Good Joe Bell sees Brokeback Mountain’s screenwriters reunite for a new film about a father coming to terms with the suicide of his young gay son.
Brokeback Mountain scribes Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who transformed Annie Proulx’s novel into the Oscar-winning classic starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, are set to make their joint return to LGBT+ cinema with the upcoming drama.
The harrowing true story stars Mark Wahlberg as a father, Joe Bell, who undertook a walk across the United States to raise awareness of bullying following the suicide of his 15-year-old son Jadin, played by Reid Miller.
Good Joe Bell will shift between his “cross-country odyssey” and flashback scenes depicting the “brutal homophobia” Jadin experienced at school.
Ossana explained to The Hollywood Reporter that it was her who convinced McMurtry to take on the project, as with Brokeback Mountain more than 15 years before.
She said: “Larry had a difficult time initially, before we began writing. He was kind of not happy with Joe. I talked to him about what Joe’s psychological state would be. But Joe deeply loved his children, and I told Larry we had to come at it that way.”
The real Joe Bell was struck by a car and killed in October 2013, eight months after the death of his son, but his widow and friends of Jadin were closely involved in the project.
Ossana added: “We came to conclude that Joe was a very complex man.”
It’s not yet clear when Good Joe Bell will hit cinemas.
The film, which wrapped up filming before the pandemic, is set to make its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival — but as with much of cinema, it is unclear when or how it will be distributed due to COVID-19.
Director Reinaldo Marcus Green told THR: “I’m open to however the film needs to be released. I do hope they will get it out this year, given everything and the election. I think it could strike a nerve.”
A synopsis of the film says: “Joe (Wahlberg) could have been permanently broken by regret, but instead sets out on a mission. He will walk across America, speaking to school groups, communities, anyone who will listen, about the corrosive dangers of bullying.
“Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who wrote Brokeback Mountain, shift between Joe’s cross-country odyssey and earlier scenes at home in Oregon. There, Jadin (Miller) suffers brutal homophobia at school and visible embarrassment at home from his father. He sees no other way out but suicide.
“Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men) directs Wahlberg to one of his finest performances, finding new layers as Joe’s empathy deepens. And Reid Miller is terrific, radiating the exuberant light of youth even as he navigates the shadows around him.”
If you are in the UK and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected]. If you are in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.
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