Further reaffirming the director’s apt handling of subtly wrought, moreover Southern-fried character and situational dramas, David Gordon Green’s full-on resurgence segues admirably from Prince Avalanche to Joe. Reveling in its immersive casting and setting-specific singularity, the film’s parallels to last year’s Mud only run as deep as you’ve heard – a well-intentioned derelict’s bond with a young man (Tye Sheridan) provides a welcome, transformative distraction from the latter’s everyday familial struggles. Running admirably deeper, Joe’s (Nicolas Cage) standing within his respective Smalltown, Texas community is a bit more palpably desirable, his haunting local legend chiseling away at him daily as the detriment of perpetuated loneliness builds in effective virility.
Enter key wayward youth, Gary, of whom catches his soon-to-be savior’s eye almost immediately upon scoring a spot among Joe’s modest backwoods workforce. Character-building remains steady from here while our two protagonists interact frequently with locals both amiable and the opposite, competent storytelling remaining just that given the wobbly arrangement of the pair’s chemistry-building sequences and corresponding tonal messiness.
Barring its questionable structural integrity, strong performances across the board and palpable commentary on the wide-reaching desire and necessity of capable father figures do wonders for Joe. The titular flawed antihero’s self-examination and reevaluation remain touching as Gordon Green’s discernible flourishes benefiting the proceedings from an equally resonant and technical standpoint. Jarring moody and sometimes violent infrequency detract from its poignancy, yet the fact of the matter remains: Joe is simply a solid chunk of regional storytelling bolstered by attention to detail and all-encompassing sensitivity regarding the handling of its subjects and situations.