Nicolas Cage dials down the craziness to deliver a performance of true sensitivity and depth in absorbing American indie drama Joe.
Not that his character doesn’t have a wild side. An ex-con leading a tree-poisoning crew for a lumber company in the Deep South, Cage’s Joe is reckless, volatile and hot headed. Yet he has a fundamentally decent core, as becomes clear when he takes downtrodden 15-year-old boy Gary (Tye Sheridan from Mud) under his wing.
Based on the 1991 novel by Larry Brown, this is a film is laden with symbolism – with Cage’s Joe much like the doomed trees destined to make way for young saplings – but director David Gordon Green creates such a convincing sense of gritty, sweat-soaked authenticity that this never gets in the way of the story.
The fact that genuine labourers play Joe’s work crew add to the realism, but it’s the figure of Gary’s violent alcoholic father, played by non-professional actor Gary Poulter, that gives the naturalism a real edge. A homeless man who had never acted before, he goes toe to toe with Cage and more than holds his own. Tragically, Poulter died, found dead in three feet of water after a drinking binge, only a few months after completing the film.
Certificate 15. Runtime 117 mins. Director David Gordon Green.
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