Film Review: My Name Is Joe

This is one of those films where from the trailer, from a brief synopsis of the plot, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a movie about nothing at all. That it’s an extended episode of the nations favourite Soap Opera. Just set North of the border. However, there is much, much more to this film than it’s slightly basic, and overly mundane plot would suggest.

Essentially, it tells the story of a recovering alcoholic, trying to build a simple and honest life post drink, while living in a hard, rough neighbourhood of a hard, tough city and the lives he touches and connects to as he progresses on his journey. As I said, it’s not a plot that fills you with much desire or hope that this movie is going to really impress.

It’s never going to be popcorn fodder. It’s not a pizza and beer movie. It’s Ken Loach, a man with a directing career spanning nearly 5 decades and yet, has never succumbed to the Hollywood glitz and pull of the mainstream creating a film that is engrossing, thought provoking and real. Yes, on the surface it has this every day, realistic, routine of life plot that could be Joe’s, or John’s or even James but that isn’t where the strengths of this film lies.

This film shines out because of the hidden layers, the relationships between the characters and the personality traits that they bring out in each other. You get the impression that the lives that touch Joe, both positivity and negatively, are there to portray his character traits more than anything. They are the reflection of him and his journey. There are times when you are overwhelmed with a true sense of the definition of loyalty, or of love and even hate coming from the world around .

Anyone who has seen Tyrannosaur will know what I mean, that from time to time, it is possible to use the power of suggestion, a thought, a look, to pack a stronger punch than any spoken word. They say “actions speak louder than words” and My Name Is Joe is a perfect example of this.

However, while I think that throughout the film that are moments of sheer magic, there are as you’d expect, moments that just don’t work. That miss the mark or feel slightly unbelievable. Firstly Joe is meant to be 38 in the film, but Peter Mullan:¬†feels, acts and looks much older. You’d easily buy into him being in his 40’s but approaching them is just a small step too far.

Then there is the pacing of the film and the running time. It’s a short film that not slow in its speed and as a result, while nothing feels rushed, there are moments where you just wonder exactly why and how he takes the actions he takes or why the people he strives to protect so much mean what they do to him. It raises questions, albeit not 100% to its own detriment or down fall, but it never bothers to answer them. And for me, that was a shame. I’d happily have given another 30 minutes to Joe to be given the answers.

My biggest problem though is the ending. It’s such a big problem that to be honest, it goes as far as potentially ruining the film for me. It twists, not greatly, or unexpectedly, but into a direction that feels removed from the world that has seemed so safe and inviting for the previous 75 minutes. I took away from the ending the idea that it’s about control, about the safety net giving way. That trigger action. But I felt it was unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the film but does serve to break it.

As somebody currently going through my own recovery from my own addictive illness, there is a lot of this film that I connect with, a lot of things that make me sit up. There were even a lot of things in Joe that I related to, that I saw in myself, but as previously stated, the ending just felt unnecessary and out of place with the rest of the film. Which ultimately, meant that the connection and empathy that had built up was completely, and sadly, destroyed. And as a result, I’ve come away from My Name Is Joe, feeling more deflated than anything else.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.