Here lies Joe [Short Film Review]

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A feeling of imprisonment. Many people have it. Many people still live with it. It grows within them a bit more each day. Some of them escape from it and get back to life. Yet some decide to end it… completely and irrevocably. A feeling of imprisonment is what the character of Z (Andi Morrow) is describing in these few lines of her poem, or as she calls it, her suicide note: « To be locked out. To be locked in. The soul cannot select the worse between… and so I choose my freedom. »

Depression is like a tunnel. The only way out is through. And this is what Mark Battle’s short film is saying. No one can get out of it without a fight. Here Lies Joe tells the story of a depressed man (Dean Temple), who attends a support group where he meets a capricious woman (Andi Morrow) who upends his day and eventually his life.

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Through this quite dark yet hopeful story, the filmmaker narrates the fight against darkness and more specifically against the dark thoughts humans may encounter on their path.

Here Lies Joe is an ode to the preciosity and beauty of life; it is about knocking down the walls that imprison and getting back to the light of day, to laughing, to smiling, to being happy but also to being sad sometimes… it is about getting back to life, in short.

There is also a prevailing message in the stories of Battle’s two main characters, which is the importance of a friend, of having a real and understanding connection, support and love in one’s life. It’s simply about saying that one close friend, one person, can change your life for the better.

Here Lies Joe is structured like a mountain. It ramps up to the sound of folk music until its peak, where an opera song resonates dramatising the act of suicide, and then slowly comes back down to the melancholic rhythm of Casey Sullivan’s song, ‘Heartbeat cold’, and the sound of the strings of her guitar.

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Punctuated by some poetic dialogues – i.e. « because I am an ugly thing in a beautiful world » Z says when she’s about to cut her veins – Mark Battle’s short film ends up with an open view on a bright future.

« I’m kind of in the mood for pancakes. » Joe (also known as New Guy) tells Z on the phone in the last scene. This one sentence comes in the film like a semi-colon comes in a text, and eradicates the idea of a full stop for Z’s and Joe’s lives, letting them imagine the possibility and start acting on the very existence of a future.

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