A world-weary man reaches what he believes to be the end of his journey through life and makes preparations to leave the world behind him. Meeting an irreverent stranger at Suicide Anonymous, Joe sees the tiniest glint of light in the darkness and the pair find a connection within the downward spiral.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the similarities between Here Lies Joe and Chuck Palahniuk’s seminal novel Fight Club, from the downbeat protagonist to the Marla Singer’esque enigma who invades his life. This central conceit is prevalent in a number of literary works but the dark subject matter peppered with humour falls very much in line with Palahniuk, and by extension, David Fincher’s adaptation of that material.
That’s not to say this short feature cannot be enjoyed on its own merits. Writer/ Director Mark Battle does a great job of allowing the story to unfurl at a measured pace. There’s an assured serenity to how each scene develops which only strengthens the connection between the viewer and the leads. This isn’t dialogue heavy or overbearingly stylistic in its efforts to convey the almost intangible emotional weight of the suicidal.
Our protagonist (portrayed by Dean Temple) delivers an exceptionally understated performance reminiscent of Macon Blair’s in Jeremy Saulnier’s feature, Blue Ruin, while Andi Morrow injects the flippant “Z” with enough nuances for her character to avoid the pitfalls of being perceived as grating. She balances a surface-level verve with an underlying fragility that makes the relationship between the two characters believable. It’s these performances and the overall proficiency of the filmmakers that elevates this slightly above the clichés and well-trodden elements that we’ve seen countless times before.
Although I wouldn’t consider Here Lies Joe essential short feature viewing, it has certainly piqued my interest in Mark Battle and his future projects. I only hope that his next project ventures into fresher, more compelling territory.
Here Lies Joe is currently doing the rounds on the festival circuit and will hopefully make its way to more public platforms in the near future.
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