Joe Bell (2020) – Transcript

The true story of a small town, working class father who embarks on a solo walk across the U.S. to crusade against bullying after his son is tormented in high school for being gay.
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Joe Bell (2020)

The true story of a small town, working class father who embarks on a solo walk across the U.S. to crusade against bullying after his son is tormented in high school for being gay.

* * *

[DISTANT TRAFFIC AMBIENCE]

[PHONE LINE RINGING]

JOE: Hey, Lola.

Checking in from Idaho.

Other than my right foot being one gigantic blister, I’m okay.

I’ll just have to fight through it.

Fight it out, will it out.

I’ll call you again from Twin Falls, okay?

I miss you. Hug Joseph for me.

[TRUCK HORN BLARES]

What the fuck?

Fucking… You motherfucker!

Hey, you all right?

Yeah, I’m all right.

See, that’s why you need to do what Mom tells you to do.

Walk against the traffic.

What?

You’re 15, all right? I’m 45.

You think I don’t know what I’m doing out here?

No I don’t. That’s why I’m with you.

[INDISTINCT CHATTERING]

We… we have with us tonight Joe Bell, all the way from La Grande, Oregon.

Joe’s here to talk to us tonight about tolerance.

Let’s, uh, give him a round of applause.

[APPLAUSE]

JOE: Uh…

Good afternoon. Thanks for having me here.

Uh…

I jotted down a couple of things I want to chat with you guys about, um…

You know, a lot of people don’t think it’s a big deal to make fun of other people… um, who are different from you.

You know, bullying and intolerance can have a deadly effect.

And I’m here because I’m walking across America on behalf of my son, Jadin, to speak out against bullying.

All right? Now it’s important…

Is it okay if I take this?

I don’t want to break it.

[FEEDBACK SQUEALS]

You know, it’s important for people to understand, or understand how hurtful it is to harass and torment people

who aren’t the same as you.

And that understanding begins at home with the parents and families.

All right?

Parents out there, just let your kids be who they are, and it’ll all be fine.

You tell them you love them no matter what, all right?

Because that’s what they need to know.

All right?

Anybody have any questions for me?

No?

Okay, well please follow me on Facebook and share my message with your friends.

Thank you, guys.

[APPLAUSE]

Thank you.

[GROANS]

Shit. Hey!

JADIN: Yeah? Why won’t this thing work?

[LAUGHS] Come on.

You need any help?

I’m done now.

I’m useless.

Get in, get in, get in.

[JADIN GRUNTS]

JADIN: I’m laying here with you?

Yeah. You’re stuck with me.

Get your feet off my pillow!

[JADIN LAUGHS]

JOE: Oh, shit! Whoa!

[VEHICLES PASSING]

[SIGHS]

JADIN: What was that last night, huh?

“Understanding begins at home”?

Whose home? Not ours.

JOE: That’s the way it was.

JADIN: No, not for me it wasn’t.

“Just be who you are and it’ll all be fine.”

How can you say that when you know it’s a lie?

Look at that resolution on this bad boy.

I see it.

Huh?

Big TV.

Oh, yeah.

Hey, don’t worry,

the washing machine’s coming next.

[LAUGHS] Yeah, I’m not gonna hold my breath on that!

Hey, I’m getting one of these.

Don’t hook up the VHS.

We ain’t gonna use that shit.

Well, there’s plenty of holes back there.

Hey.

LOLA: What?

Get out of the way, man.

All right, what can I get anybody?

Hey, come on. Hey.

What?

Sit with me for a few minutes and enjoy this.

No, game time’s in an hour. The food can wait, come on.

JADIN: Hey, Dad, can I talk to you for a minute?

What?

LOLA: He needs to talk to you.

Honey, I’m talking to you.

Can I please talk to you just…?

Now?

Yes, now.

You’ve got to be shitting me. All right, then, talk to me.

Can we please talk outside or out back?

You gotta be shitting me. Hey, don’t touch the remote.

All right.

Well?

Well?

Can you just give me a second.

That goddamn TV ain’t gonna watch itself.

Well, Mom already knows.

Knows what? What?

Knows that I’m getting picked on by these guys at school.

Why is that?

I don’t know, because I’m not like them?

It’s gotta be more than that. That doesn’t make sense.

Why aren’t you like them?

Because I’m just…

I’m different. I’m just…

Because why?

Because I’m not like them.

That’s not an answer, Jadin.

Doesn’t make any sense.

Because I’m gay.

You remember when I took you boys to the Y?

Hmm? I put boxing gloves on you both and made you duke it out.

You need to know how to clean anybody’s clock.

Anybody that messes with you. Didn’t I teach you anything?

I don’t want to spend my high school duking it out with guys who just don’t agree with me.

I can fight someone one on one, but I can’t fight an entire school.

Well, if I got to go down there and kick the fuck out of them little sons of bitches, I will!

You know what? We’re gonna let nature take its course.

All right?

This isn’t anybody else’s business anyway, is it?

Don’t talk about it with the other kids.

Or with other people. You mind your own damn business.

It’ll all be fine. It’ll work itself out.

LOLA: Joe.

JOE: What?

It’s not gonna work itself out.

JOE: What am I supposed to do?

Not talking about it is not gonna help.

JOE: It’s gonna be fine.

LOLA: None of this is his fault.

JOE: I didn’t say that it was.

LOLA: The only thing he needs to know is that his family loves him.

This family loves you.

You’re stating the obvious here.

LOLA: It’s not that obvious. You can say it too, you know.

JOE: He knows I love him.

I love you. You…

You know that.

Are we done here now?

JIMMY: Here you go.

You fucking with my settings?

JIMMY: I was just trying to see if I could figure it out.

Lola!

[SNIFFLES]

I’m getting a beer.

[FRIDGE DOOR OPENS]

JIMMY: Hey, just don’t get all bent out of shape about it, Joe.

He’s just a kid.

JOE: What’s that supposed to mean?

I mean, so he’s playing a little grab-ass, stirring up some trouble. It’s not a big deal.

What are you trying to say, this is a phase?

The point is, I know what he’s in for now, all right?

I just don’t want him out there damn near broadcasting it.

You know where we live.

JIMMY: I know.

I’m just saying, kids are designed to drive you nuts.

[LAUGHS] He might just grow out of it.

MARCIE & JADIN: Go, Cougars!

Let’s go, Cougars!

Let’s go, Cougars!

What in the hell? Hey, Lola, come here.

LOLA: What?

Come here!

I’m coming. What is it?

You tell me. What is this?

What? He’s practicing his cheers.

He’s just going to do his cheers out there in the front yard?

We told him he could join the squad…

But in the front yard?

Let him be, Joe. It’s his first game this week.

Why not?

Hell no, hell no. No, no, no.

LOLA: Joe… Joe.

Mm-hmm.

LOLA: Joe.

JOE: Front yard.

Oh, for God’s sakes.

Let’s go, Cougars, let’s go!

Hey, son?

Yeah?

Could you…?

Would you mind practicing in the backyard?

It’s hard for me to hear the TV.

What?

You’re out in front here yelling.

And I can’t hear the television.

Can you not just turn it up?

Don’t tell me what to do.

Your mother and I been supporting this cheerleading, but you need to practice in the backyard.

[WHISPERING] What’s his problem?

Why can’t we just practice in the front?

Get your ass in the backyard now.

Can’t you ever just shut the fuck up

and do what you’re told?

I thought my home life was unstable.

Go ahead. Follow Marcie.

You better tell Marcie to stop running her mouth, or I’m gonna put a foot in her ass.

Oh, okay.

JOE: Come here. Come sit with me.

I’m doing my crossword.

JOE: I’m going to try to be better.

I love you.

I love you too.

I know.

Joe Bell (2020) Poster

JADIN: I got to give you credit, Dad. At least you’re persistent.

JOE: Well, I’m walking all this way because that’s where you told us you wanted to live, remember?

JADIN: Oh, yeah. New York City.

JOE: Yeah, your big dream.

Mm-hmm. I mean, obviously.

Why obviously?

Why not? Think about it, if you were me, would you rather live in La Grande or New York City?

Well, I bet you’ll feel more comfortable in New York.

Yeah. I’m sure you’re right. That’s the point.

All right, well, just for the record, I happen to love La Grande.

So, you know, why don’t you just…?

Okay, no, uh-uh. There’s no comparison.

There’s no comparison.

Well, I…

Okay, what does La Grande have?

Nothing. Exactly. What does New York have?

It has every kind of food, every kind of people, every kind of pizza.

We got pizza in La Grande.

It’s got skyscrapers and Broadway and… Stefani.

I mean, hello? Stefani.

Who’s Stefani?

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.

What? Who is that?

Gaga, Dad.

Oh.

Lady Gaga.

Yeah, yeah.

And, you know, of course…

Of course she’s proud of how she grew up.

I mean, she grew up in New York.

Only a New Yorker could write that song.

Well, don’t start.

Oh, come on. You know you love it.

Oh, Lord, please…

♪ My mama told me When I was young ♪

♪ We’re all born Superstars ♪

♪ Da, da, da, da, da, da ♪

♪ She rolled my hair And put my lipstick on ♪

♪ In the glass of her boudoir ♪

♪ She said there’s nothing wrong With loving who you are ♪

♪ She said, ’cause he made you Perfect, babe ♪

♪ So keep your head up, girl And you’ll go far ♪

♪ Listen to me when I say ♪

♪ You’re beautiful in your way ♪

♪ ‘Cause God makes No mistakes ♪

♪ I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way ♪

What?

Well, don’t look so surprised.

Excuse me, I didn’t know you knew the words.

Well, you blast that shit so loud,

you think I didn’t pick up a thing or two?

Wow. Okay.

I’m one of them…

What do you call it? “I’m a monster.”

Okay.

“I’m a monster.”

All right a little…

Yeah. Yeah.

Excuse me, it’s a little monster,

to be correct.

[LAUGHS] Little monster.

Yeah, you know what? All right, even I’ll admit it, okay?

It’s a little catchy.

Yes, it is.

Don’t hide yourself in regret.

BOTH: Just love yourself and you’re set.

♪ I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way ♪

All right.

We’re not doing that again.

All right, now, sing me something I like.

Give me a little Willie Nelson.

Oh, man. Smells good.

Hey.

MOLLY: Well, if it ain’t Grizzly Adams

washed up on my doorstep.

[SIGHS]

Joe, is it?

JOE: Joe it is.

Heard all about you, Joe. You’re all over TV.

You’re in luck. We got the finest food in Utah.

Good, because I’m starving.

What’ll it be?

Uh, I’ll have your special and a coffee.

MOLLY: Be right back.

ANNOUNCER [ON TV]: …same sex marriage…

Oh, God.

Fucking queens are everywhere now.

Hey, sweetheart, can you turn that fairy shit off, please?

MOLLY: There’s ignorant folks everywhere.

Don’t you pay them no mind.

Yeah.

Hey, my name’s Joe Bell.

Overheard you talking over here.

I’m on a walk for change for my son Jadin.

And, uh…

I’d like you to check out

our message of inclusion.

Appreciate it if you get a chance, thanks.

I’ll pass on the meal.

MAN: I don’t know what the fuck that’s all about.

[LAUGHS]

Dad.

Don’t start your shit, Jadin.

Dad!

What?

Giving them a card and running away isn’t gonna change shit.

I’m sorry, but it’s not.

I don’t know if you realize this or not,

but this is America, okay?

And they’re Americans.

They are entitled to their own opinion.

Okay, I’m starving my ass off, okay?

I just wanted to finish my meal

and get back on the road and on my walk.

Which I am doing for you, remember?

I mean, what else the hell…

What else in the hell do you expect from me, for chrissakes?

The people that come to your talks aren’t the issue.

They are.

Really?

Guys like that and their kids.

That’s the issue.

I hate to break it to you, but we wouldn’t be hauling our asses cross-country on foot if you’d actually done what I told you to in the first place.

You told me to fight, which you didn’t do.

And?

You’re a hypocrite.

I’m the hypocrite?

Don’t want to be a hypocrite, then go back in there and kick their asses.

Oh, I’m sorry, give them another card and say bye.

[INDISTINCT CHATTERING]

Yes, I agree.

Very, very.

Oh, who are we talking about?

They’re so loud.

Oh, my gosh, he’s so hot.

Guys, guys, guys.

[LAUGHS]

Yeah.

[BELL RINGS]

You guys want to come over?

[GRUNTS]

MARCIE: Jerk!

First down, faggot!

COLLEEN: You guys are such assholes.

BOYD: Takes one to know one.

[GIGGLING AND LAUGHING]

 

[DANCE MUSIC BLARING]

Chug, chug!

[LAUGHS]

Get a drink.

I do.

Really?

[INDISTINCT CHATTERING]

GIRL: She has had so many drinks.

Wanna smoke?

COLLEEN: Go, go.

Right now?

Yes, go. Hurry.

Okay.

[CLEARS THROAT]

I didn’t know you smoked.

Yeah, we’re not supposed to.

Don’t tell coach, okay?

Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.

Is it?

Yeah.

[GLASS BOTTLE CLATTERS]

You jerk, where are you taking me?

MARCIE: You kissed a football player?

Mm-hmm.

Uh, no, technically he’s a running back.

What’s that?

I don’t know, actually.

This is, like, the stuff dreams are made of.

I know.

How was the kiss?

Can we not talk about this right now?

You wanna go to my room and talk about this?

Yeah, I want to talk about this. I want to talk about this.

Warmer?

Okay, come on.

ANNOUNCER [OVER P.A.]: Second and ten on the 45-yard line.

[EXCITED SHOUTING]

Here we go, Cougars. Here we go.

[CHEERING]

Let’s go, Cougars!

Let’s go…

COACH: Do a good job, Chance. Let’s go.

JADIN: Come on, Chance! Go, number 5!

Whoo!

Whoo!

Yeah! Whoo!

Hey, Bell, did you forget your skirt?

Whoo!

Hey, ass bandit!

Is that a boy down there?

What the hell is the school thinking?

PLAYER: Hike!

Joe Bell (2020)

ANNOUNCER: Touchdown, Cougars!

[ALL CHEER]

A 30-yard pass to number 40…

CHEERLEADERS [CHANTING]: Let’s go, Cougars!

Let’s go, Cougars!

Let’s go, Cougars!

Whoo!

[CELL PHONE VIBRATES]

[HIP-HOP MUSIC PLAYING OVER PHONE]

I saw what they said about you.

Doesn’t it bother you what people say?

Words can’t hurt me.

I’m tougher than I look, okay?

JADIN: Look at these mountains.

They’re so steep.

Yeah.

If we had more time, we’d hike them.

You can see why I always wanted you

to go hunting and fishing with me.

Take you up there and get you away from everything down below.

Yeah, real macho stuff.

I was just trying to be a decent parent.

I mean, I thought being out in the wild

would help you be a man.

What does that mean to you, “be a man”? I’m just curious.

I did the same thing for Joseph for the same reason,

and he’s not gay.

It didn’t matter to you what I was okay with, especially after you started your cheerleading thing.

I mean, Dad, some men like cheerleading and some men like hiking.

And I think if we’re…

I don’t know, if we’re being honest, you were never really okay with me cheerleading, were you?

No, if we’re being honest, if you thought you could handle it, I knew different.

I mean, you saw me cheer, like, once?

The one time you did, you left.

What?

People were calling me names and throwing stuff at me, and you got up and left.

I was afraid for you.

We were all afraid for you.

LOLA [ON PHONE]: Well, I worked two shifts today.

And then I came home to do some laundry, and the laundry machine finally just fucking died.

But with a whole load of clothes in, it wouldn’t drain.

I mean, it was… it was such a mess.

Well, I’m sorry about all that, but there’s not much I can do from out here.

[LAUGHING]

There’s really not much you could do if you were standing right in front of me.

[LAUGHING]

[SIGHS]

I’m right about that.

You know you should just call us at the same time every week, you know?

Just set it so we know that we’re gonna hear from you.

Look, Lola…

I’m afraid for Joseph with you drinking again.

I mean, I want to trust things are okay while I’m gone, but you’re damn near slurring every other word.

Joseph doesn’t need to see that.

LOLA: Wait, what? Wait.

What is… What is… What is so difficult about what I just asked?

Well, I know that you drink a lot, and so does Marcie and Joseph.

Can’t you just stop with one damn drink?

What, you gotta have five or ten of them?

Joe, you’re not here.

You have no idea what’s going on.

No idea.

So, what are you gonna do? You gonna go to bed?

Oh, no, I dipped into our retirement savings so I could splurge on a presidential suite at the Bear River Inn.

Right.

Well, love you.

I love you.

Hey. Hey.

What?

Come here.

What?

It’s gold!

[LAUGHS] Gold, baby!

JADIN: What?

JOE: Whoo!

Green gold, baby. Look at these bad boys.

Look at the size of them. Huh?

Is that asparagus?

Oh, man.

I’m gonna grill them up on the fire, you are gonna love it.

Ain’t nothing better than wild asparagus.

Oh, that smells so good.

BOTH: Oh, yeah.

That’s the real deal right there, baby.

JADIN: Yeah, man.

JOE: This is green gold. Whoo!

Nothing better.

Right out of the ground. Taste that.

That’s so good.

Give me more of that. You’re hogging it.

I haven’t had a bite yet.

[LAUGHS]

What the heck?

Here, get one.

Just make sure it’s cooked.

I don’t want you eating nothing raw.

You know, this is the one thing you can cook.

Did you ever wish that I wrestled?

No. You didn’t want to wrestle, you didn’t have to wrestle.

JADIN: Joseph’s gotten really good.

You know why’s good at it?

Why?

Because he works hard at it.

You put the time in…

you get good at whatever you work hard at.

That’s all about sacrifice.

Trying to get this one big one here.

[♪♪]

Whoo!

Yeah, buddy!

Let’s go, Cougars, let’s go!

Let’s go, Cougars, let’s go! Come on!

Come on. Come out here. It feels great.

Let’s go, Cougars, let’s go! Argh.

I will keep you up all night.

Let’s go, Cougars! Let’s go!

Let’s go, grandpa. Come on.

Let’s go, Cougars! Let’s go!! Argh!

All right, show me again.

All right, ready?

Yeah.

Watch.

BOTH: Let’s go, Cougars, let’s go!

Argh!

Argh!

[BOTH GROWLING AND LAUGHING]

Whoo!

[BREATHING HEAVILY]

JADIN: How many yards did you rush for in last night’s game?

CHANCE: Uh…

158.

Is that a lot, or…?

If you don’t know, why are you asking?

I want to know about your game.

[LAUGHS]

Um… yeah.

Yeah, I mean, 158’s pretty good.

Um, it’s below my average, though, but…

you know, I don’t need to be a star or anything.

I just want to get into a small program

and play football somewhere.

Like where?

Um…

well, I’m not really, you know,

D-1 material.

[BOTH LAUGH]

But I don’t know.

Like Portland State, maybe?

Maybe Eastern Washington.

That’s a long way away from where I’ll be.

Hmm. And where’s that?

New York.

You know there’s a lot of colleges in New York.

And if you wanted to…

I don’t know, go east…

we could go together.

Or something.

I don’t know, Jadin. That’s aiming pretty high.

JADIN: He, uh…

he got freaked out.

He was afraid that he’d get kicked out

if his moron parents knew.

Romantic relationships aren’t everything, Jadin.

They’re not the solution to life.

It was the solution to my life.

My life, Dad. Not yours. Mine.

[SIGHS]

Nervous, huh?

No. Why would I be nervous?

What if somebody hits on you?

Nobody’s gonna hit on me.

It’s a gay bar, Dad.

Somebody’s gonna hit on you.

How would you know?

Ever been to a gay bar?

No, but…

Have you ever been to a bar?

JADIN: No.

Okay, then.

Also, it’s drag night,

so you better dance.

I don’t dance.

I cannot wait to see my dad, the magnificent Joe Bell,

working it with some fierce lady queens.

That’s not gonna happen. You’re staying here.

Okay, well, at least say hi to Cher for me.

Cher?

Mm-hmm. There’s always a Cher.

It’s a given.

How would you know?

JADIN: Because. It’s a given.

And if she flirts with you, try not to be mean.

Why would I be mean?

I mean, who the hell do you think I am?

Would you flirt back?

No, I would not, Jadin.

JADIN: Why not?

Because.

Because why?

Because Cher’s not my type.

Now, if Dolly’s there…

JADIN: No.

…I’m gonna motorboat them big-ass titties.

[LAUGHS]

You are disgusting.

[SIGHS]

Dad…

What?

Relax. You got this.

[SIGHS]

You know that’s my job.

To reassure you.

Yeah, I wish I could go with you.

Yeah, well, so do I.

Well, wish me luck.

Good luck.

Give me a hug.

All right.

How do I look?

Pants tight enough but not too tight?

Oh, God, Dad!

I’m gonna keep the flaps down.

Stop buying the time. Get out of here.

Go. Good luck.

Bye.

Bye.

[LOUD MUSIC PLAYING]

[INDISTINCT CHATTER]

Our folks are deeply religious.

I was 15, and I was a deacon at our church.

I was sitting at church with my family,

and the sermon that day was on sins against God.

And when he said, “gays are going to hell,”

I couldn’t take it anymore.

I got up and I-I-I went to leave,

and my mom stopped me and she said, “Where are you going?”

And I turned and I said “To hell, apparently.”

[LAUGHS]

[CHUCKLING]

It’s seems funny now, but…

It was funny.

At the time it was like an avalanche had hit.

My entire life was hell.

It’s hard to stand strong

in places where there are more churches than there are gays.

Churches, man. Don’t even get me started.

Jadin went to church with a friend of his one Sunday.

I mean, he was hoping he’d make some friends

and find a place where people would be kind.

During the service, the pastor singled him out and said,

“If you are gay, you must come up here to the altar

and repent your sins, or leave.”

Jaden told us it made him feel horrible, like he didn’t belong.

You got them Catholic Church taking child molesting priests,

they move them from one church to another

so they can molest other boys, and they won’t accept my son

because he’s openly gay? I mean, the idea is

you’re supposed to worship the guy who died to build it,

not the frigging assholes in there

that are judging everybody doing God knows what

behind closed doors.

WILL: It’s true.

People think it’s easier these days.

But everyone in this bar knows that’s not necessarily true.

That’s why they come here.

This place is like a church too.

I think it’s amazing.

Hi, darlings.

It’s almost showtime again.

Oh, my God, who is this?

Don’t make me introduce myself.

This is Joe Bell.

Where have you been all my life?

He’s just visiting.

Oh, perfect.

Well, if you need a place to crash,

there’s room on my couch.

[LAUGHS] Or my bed.

Oh, I’m, uh…

I’m… I’m… Well…

I’m not… I mean, I am a straight guy.

I didn’t know if you were serious or not.

Joe’s walking across the country to raise awareness

about bullying, because his son was bullied.

Well, why didn’t you bring him?

Especially if he’s as cute as you are.

Is he as cute as you, Daddy?

[LAUGHS]

Um… my son is dead.

DRAG QUEEN: Oh, my God.

Oh, my God, I had no idea.

I’m… I’m so sorry.

JOE: It’s all good. Really.

DRAG QUEEN: Let me take my foot out of my mouth.

I’m so sorry, I…

No, no, no, I…

I had no idea.

It’s all good.

DRAG QUEEN: No, it’s… It’s not.

I really didn’t know, and now I’ve got to perform again.

Hey, hey. I’m okay.

I’m so sorry.

[MUSIC PLAYS]

[APPLAUSE]

Honey, I’m gonna grab you another beer.

♪ Think of your fellow man Lend him a helping hand ♪

♪ Put a little love In your heart ♪

♪ You see, it’s getting late ♪

♪ Oh, please don’t hesitate ♪

♪ Put a little love In your heart ♪

♪ And the world ♪

[♪♪]

[GRUNTING]

[PHONE RINGS]

[SIGHS]

Hey, honey.

LOLA [ON PHONE]: You in Steamboat Springs?

Oh, my GPS must be working again.

[GROANS]

It’s been a hell of a walk through Colorado.

You gotta call us, you know,

when you’re going through all those storms.

It’s crazy.

What, are you worried?

Well, don’t be. That storm went way south of me.

I only caught the tail end of it.

Yeah, well, still just call us.

Okay.

Hey, hold on a second.

JOSEPH [ON PHONE]: Hey, Dad.

Hey, buddy.

See you got 12,000 followers.

How’s the man of the house?

Good. You know we’re good.

Wrestling practice is really good.

Coach filmed a few of them.

Well, I can’t wait to see them.

Yeah, hey, Dad,

what would you think about me and Mom coming to visit you?

Out on the road. I mean, not on the road,

but maybe in a motel or a hotel, even?

Well, I can’t think of anything I’d like better.

Your mom okay with it?

Mom? Yeah. She’s okay with it.

All right.

Let me talk to your mom.

Oh, shit.

LOLA: Okay, give me the phone back.

You coming to see me?

All right, yeah, we’ll talk about it.

All right. Hurry.

All right. Love you, bye.

Oh, shit.

[SIGHS]

LOLA: Well, it’s starting to snow.

JOSEPH: Maybe we could, uh,

get out and do some snowboarding later.

LOLA: There he is.

Hey, hey!

JOSEPH: Hey, Dad.

My God, son, it’s only been a few months.

You’re as tall as me Missed you, buddy.

I missed you too, Dad.

Hey.

Hi. Saw you spit that dip out.

Oh, no, that’s just for walking.

[LAUGHING] Mm-hmm.

You smell so good.

How are you doing?

JOSEPH: So I, uh…

I brought my wrestling tapes.

Good. We’ll watch them tonight.

I’ve booked us a surprise adventure for the afternoon.

We have 15 minutes.

LOLA: Oh, all right.

Is it snowboarding?

JOE: No, no, no.

You’re gonna love it, I promise. All right?

All right, I got this.

How was the drive?

LOLA: Not bad.

Oh, good.

Come on.

[INDISTINCT CHATTER]

[APPLAUSE]

♪ Waiting on the sunshine ♪

♪ To come around again ♪

♪ It’s been a long time ♪

♪ Since we let it in ♪

♪ Take me down ♪

♪ To the fault line ♪

♪ Take me down ♪

♪ Where the river starts ♪

♪ Take me into your heart ♪

I gotta take you on a mechanical bull so you can practice.

I’m telling you, I think you can beat the record.

Excuse me.

Excuse me, aren’t…?

aren’t you that fella that’s walking across America?

I am.

Sir, it is a pleasure to meet you.

Dad’s a celebrity.

MAN: This is my wife.

So nice to meet you.

Hi, I’m… I’m his wife.

And Jadin’s mom.

WOMAN: Nice to meet you.

And this is our son, Joseph.

Hi, I’m Joseph.

WOMAN: Hi, Joseph.

MAN: I think it’s incredible

what you’re doing for your son.

WOMAN: Yes.

Takes real courage to stick up for what you believe in.

Well, it’s got to be done. This can’t go on.

WOMAN: Yes.

MAN: Would you mind

if we got our picture with you?

Sure. Absolutely.

WOMAN: Yes. Thank you.

Honey, take the picture.

Oh. Okay.

MAN: Thank you.

WOMAN: Thank you.

[CAMERA CLICKS]

JOE: That’s real good work.

JOSEPH: I’m getting faster.

JOE: You see how much leverage you got on him?

He ain’t going nowhere.

That’s good.

That’s real good.

You seen this?

Yeah.

I was there when it happened.

He’s got some pretty decent takedowns,

but these transitions are a lot more fluid.

What’s coach saying?

Coach is saying I’m doing good.

You know, he’s…

Well, I’m seeing right here.

We’ve been working out, but he says I might want

to look into losing a few pounds.

What? This boy’s just growing. No, no, no, no, no.

You go up a couple pounds. Go up another weight class.

LOLA: Brush your teeth.

Tell the coach what I said.

All right.

Make sure you tell coach.

We got an early morning tomorrow, okay?

Okay.

Hey, hey, hey, hey.

“Hey, hey, hey.”

[DOOR CLOSES]

Get him to bed so I can get you to bed.

I’m trying. You wanna help me?

I’m just…

I can’t believe how much he’s improved.

LOLA: I know. Isn’t it great?

I found this.

I thought you might like to see it.

What’s that?

Uh, well…

Let me see.

Where’d this come from?

It was on his grave, in some flowers.

One of them little shits that bullied my boy

into the ground had the nerve to stand over his grave?

Well, Joe…

Why?

And now he wants to apologize?

Who’s this for?

It’s not for Jadin, because he’s dead and buried.

And not for me.

What am I supposed to do with this, Lola?

I don’t know I thought you’d like to see it, Joe.

I shouldn’t have brought it.

No, don’t keep secrets from me.

Don’t even threaten that.

I’m not keeping secrets.

I’m out here on my own, no money, alone, all right?

No, the truth is all I have. Shit!

Well…

That little son of a bitch.

…you’re… you’re on a walk for forgiveness, right?

For…

There’s no apologies with me, okay?

There is no forgiveness here. They buried that with my boy.

Do you understand that, Lola?

I should not have brought that letter.

Lola… what?

It’s all yours, Dad.

JOE: Those sons of bitches.

Fucking kidding me.

LOLA: Don’t worry about it.

Don’t think about it then, Joe.

Son of a bitch, Joseph, get your ass in here now!

Did you hear what the fuck I said? Now!

You see what you’ve done? Look!

How many times have I told you, huh?

How many times to put the seat up when you take a piss?

LOLA: Joe!

A hundred? A thousand?

Nobody’s fucking talking to you. Shut the fuck up.

What do you think, I’m your maid?

Hey! Just stop!

LOLA: Jesus Christ.

[SIGHS]

Hey.

What I saw in those practice films was damn good, son.

You keep it up, you’ll be state champ by the time I get back.

I love you.

Did you hear me?

Yeah. Take care, Dad.

And what else?

I love you too.

Hey.

Hey.

So I’ll see you in Illinois, or maybe even before.

Yeah. We’ll see.

Well, I thought that was the plan, Lola.

We talked about this. Lola, don’t…

Joe, don’t you. Don’t.

What are you doing out here?

Because we’ve supported you every step of the way, because we know what’s right for you.

But you’re supposed to be on some forgiveness walk?

And you act the way you acted last night.

Our son is gone, Joe. Gone.

You’re gonna lose another one, because we’re not gonna sit around waiting for another one of your outbursts.

Lola…

It’s not gonna happen.

Lola, I…

No, no, no, no, no.

Keep walking. Keep walking. Don’t come home.

Okay? Don’t come home till you figure out whatever it is that you need to figure out.

But I hope that’s not you being some Facebook celebrity and getting your pictures taken with people.

Are you walking for Jadin, Joe?

Because if you’re walking for Jadin, then you let Jadin let you know when it’s time to come home.

I love you, Lola.

[CAR DOOR CLOSES]

You guys drive safe, okay? I love you.

LOLA: Be safe.

[CAR ENGINE STARTS]

Be careful, all right?

♪ Goodbye, darkness ♪

♪ Oh, to the light ♪

♪ Every morning ♪

♪ Is an end to a night ♪

♪ Every season Is about to bring a change ♪

♪ There’s a new chance given Every day ♪

♪ And it brings it back to ♪

♪ Yeah, it brings it Back to me ♪

JOE: Hey.

Goddamn it!

Who in the fuck…?

Fucking shit!

♪ Goodbye, evening ♪

♪ Hello to the night ♪

♪ I’m not seeing the wrong From the right ♪

♪ Walking blindly On a path without an end ♪

♪ In the morning Come to me yet again ♪

♪ Then bring it all Back to me ♪

♪ Yeah, it brings it All back to me ♪

[PHONE RINGS]

Hello?

LOLA [ON PHONE]: Hey.

Hey.

So I found something, and I want you to hear it, okay?

I found it in his backpack, and I wanted to…

Well, what is it?

Can you read it to me?

Yeah. Yeah. It’s, uh… it’s an essay that he wrote.

“It’s a horrible thing to be surrounded by people who hate you when they don’t even know you, for a reason you can’t change. One they can’t comprehend or understand. This is the life I live. Some nights, I look for the pieces I’ve dropped along the way. On these nights, I cry myself to sleep and hope tomorrow is a better day. But it never is. Every year, I look forward to school starting again, but it never turns out the way I expect it to. I pretend not to notice the looks I’m given. Avoiding eye contact with every guy bigger than me. I’m surrounded by people who hate me. Who want me dead. I can’t keep talking myself out of it. I don’t know what I’m gonna do if I don’t. It’s only getting worse. I just want it to be over. It will be soon enough.”

[WHISPERS] Don’t fucking look at us, fag.

What are you doing in here? Girl’s bathroom’s over there.

Come hang out with us.

BOY 1: What the fuck did we say about looking at us?

BOY 2: All he wants to do is watch us change.

He’s shaking, he wants it so bad.

BOY 3: Look at him shake.

Stop. Stop. Stop.

It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.

Let me ask you something.

You like dick?

[BOYS LAUGH]

Huh? Answer me.

BOY: I think he does.

You like fucking dicks.

I’ll give you dick.

Stop, stop.

It’s okay, it’s okay.

Fuck it. You like fucking dick?

Fucking dick? You like fucking dick!

[ALL SHOUTING]

You like that? You like that? Huh?

[LAUGHS]

LOLA: Can we even give you the names of the boys?

MRS. SWIFT: No, no, no, no. No names.

Have you considered changing schools?

JOE: Yeah. We applied to another high school.

We were out of their district, so they rejected him.

What about therapy?

We did, um, a few sessions of, uh, family therapy.

And I don’t need therapy. They do.

Jadin, I hear what you’re saying.

You don’t think the situation

might settle itself down on its own?

No, I don’t.

Okay.

[SIGHS] Mr. and Mrs. Bell,

I’m not saying it was acceptable behavior

on the part of the other students, because it wasn’t,

but we live in a very small town,

and the high school student body

is a reflection of our community.

If you file a formal complaint against these boys,

it may very well cause you more trouble in the long run

than it’s worth.

You don’t know what it’s like…

to feel like…

you have to muster up the courage to ask for help, and then only to find out that the person who can just couldn’t be bothered.

Son, I am trying to help you.

I’m trying to stop you from making a mistake.

[LOLA AND JOE SHOUTING]

[CELL PHONE BUZZES]

MARCIE: Hey, it’s Marcie.

[GROANS]

Hi, Marcie, it’s me.

Can you please call me when you get the chance.

I just need to talk to you. Please call me when you can.

[SIGHS]

DOLORES: Remember when we used to take…

[CELL PHONE RINGS]

Oh, just a second.

Sorry.

Jadin?

Hi, it’s me. Can you talk for a second?

DOLORES: Jadin? Hi, it’s Dolores.

Sorry. We’re in the car.

Hi, Mrs. Roberts. I didn’t know it was you.

DOLORES: I’m taking Colleen to go see her cousin

over in Pendleton for the weekend.

Okay. Do you think you could stop by and pick me up?

We are already out of Le Grande.

So I’m sorry.

[GROANS]

But why don’t you go

to our house and relax?

Be alone for a little while.

I can’t be alone right now, okay?

And I can’t go home.

So I need you to please just come pick me up.

Mom?

[WHISPERING] No.

DOLORES: Can it wait until Monday?

We’ll be back on Sunday night, and we’ll see you on Monday.

[SNIFFLES]

And whatever it is,

I’m sure that we can take care of it then.

Listen, Jadin, I will call you first thing Sunday

when we get back, okay?

Just…

[PHONE BEEPS]

[SIGHS AND SNIFFLES]

LOLA: Come on, Jadin.

Come on, Jadin!

[SOBBING] Come on, Jadin!

No, no, no.

Come on, come on, come on.

[♪♪]

[SOBBING]

JIMMY: Would you mind if I say grace?

LOLA: Sure.

JIMMY: It’s okay?

LOLA: No. Go ahead.

It’s okay?

[JIMMY CLEARS THROAT]

Our Father, who art in heaven.

We come before thee with heavy hearts.

We ask that thy loving kindness be upon us.

And thy guidance.

We are indeed thankful for the gift

Jadin has been in our lives.

We’ll need help on this new path.

We are thankful for this meal before us

and ask thy blessing upon it.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you.

You gotta get out of this room, Joe.

You’re pale as milk.

Put some clothes on. Go outside. Take a walk.

Pretty sure it’ll do you good.

Joe, I’m hurting too.

[RAIN PATTERING]

What are you doing?

Just going for a drive.

Go back inside, Joseph.

No. Not until you tell me what’s going on.

Get your ass back in the house.

I need to go for a drive,

and you need to get back inside and get into bed.

Now.

[GUN CLICKS]

Go back inside, Joseph.

Now.

[INHALES DEEPLY AND SIGHS]

[♪♪]

[SOBS SOFTLY]

[SIZZLING]

LOLA: Shit.

Here you go.

JOSEPH: Thanks, Mom.

MARCIE: Thanks.

Eat it while it’s hot.

JOSEPH: Can you pass me the syrup?

Yes.

LOLA: I have some bacon too.

JOSEPH: It may seem…

[DOOR CLOSES]

…people are just going after each other,

but it requires a lot of skill.

Whoa! You’re up.

Hi.

Lola, I got something to tell you.

LOLA: Okay.

Could you give me a few minutes?

Yes, Joe.

What is it?

I’ve decided to walk across America to New York City.

What?

Did you hear what I said?

LOLA [LAUGHS]: Yeah.

When did you decide that?

Well, just earlier this morning.

When I told you to take a walk, I meant around the block.

Not to New York City.

Lola,

I’ll talk to everybody along the way.

Anybody who will listen. About bullying.

About the damage it does. About what it did to our boy.

I’m doing this for Jadin, Lola. It’s what he wants.

It’s what he’d want me to do, I know it is.

I mean, he told us he wanted to live there someday, remember?

Yeah. Yeah.

Uh, I don’t know.

How do you…? How do you…? How do you pay for it?

Well, I’ll… I’ll get the money. I can fundraise.

I mean, everybody’s against bullying, aren’t they?

No. If they were, this wouldn’t have happened.

Let me get you something to eat before you head on the highway.

So nice that you’re back up again.

Can I get some coffee, Marcie?

MARCIE: Yeah.

Hey. You didn’t tell your mama about last night, did you?

No, sir.

Come here. I love you, buddy.

Hey. I love you so much.

This is gonna be something great, all right?

You’ll see. I promise.

Yeah.

[TRUCK HORN BLARES]

[SIGHS]

[PHONE LINE RINGS]

LOLA [ON PHONE]: Joe?

Joe?

Lola.

Joe, say something. Why are you not talking?

You’re scaring me.

I don’t… I don’t think I can keep going.

Joe… come on.

You gotta keep going.

I just wanna come home.

Oh, Joe, you can’t come home. Come on.

You’re doing it for Jadin, remember?

Yeah. For Jadin. I remember.

Yeah. And for us.

Do you want to talk to Joseph?

Is he there?

Yeah.

Yeah, he’s getting ready for his wrestling match.

We’re late.

I know he’d love to talk to you, though.

Not like this.

Just… just tell him…

tell him I’ll call… I’ll call him later.

Okay, okay. I’ll tell him.

Lola?

I saw him.

He was right there in front of me.

And he just kept leading me for miles, and…

I followed him all the way, and then…

he just disappeared.

JOSEPH: Mom! We’re late!

LOLA: Joe.

JOSEPH: Mom, did you pack the shoes?

LOLA: Yeah. Everything’s in there.

Okay. All right.

I love you.

I love you.

[SNIFFLES]

Kindness. And respect.

Kindness is the most important quality a human being can have,

or that a parent can have.

Shit, when I was walking and talking these past six months,

you never know how long you have the people that you love

and that love you,

so you damn well better love now, all right?

No matter how confused or misguided or messed up

you think they are.

Because it’s probably a good chance

that you’re just as messed up as they are.

You gotta look in the mirror, and gotta have accountability.

All right?

[SIGHS]

[COUNTRY MUSIC PLAYS OVER RADIO]

MAN: Hey, there. You’re Joe Bell?

That I am. Yes.

MAN: I’ve got something for you.

Oh!

Holy shit!

Come here!

So we got Coke in here, and some ice.

We got water over here in this one.

That’s a solar panel.

We’ll pay you for this. You’re a good man, Jim.

Thank you so much. Thank you.

♪ Beyond the things you do ♪

[CAR HORN HONKS]

♪ What became of all those Mountains ♪

♪ We found so hard to climb ♪

♪ We’ll take the high road ♪

♪ Don’t leave your side ♪

♪ Till you see it shine ♪

♪ We’ll take the high road ♪

♪ Baby, here it comes ♪

♪ Don’t you close your eyes ♪

Yeah, I…

You know, last night, I had a corral

a bunch of strangers up the street to come and hear me talk.

Shit. I gotta go.

Time for me to explain myself to another lawman.

[TRUCK DOOR CLOSES]

Howdy, sir.

Hi.

While you’re taking your hands out of your pockets,

why don’t you tell me where you’re headed.

New York City.

Looking for a ride out here then?

No. I’m walking.

Walking all the way to New York?

Joe Bell.

Yeah.

Well, what’s your mission, Mr. Bell?

Well, like it says there on my card,

I talk to people about bullying.

About how it’s not okay to torment somebody

because they’re different from you.

Different how?

Like my son Jadin. He was gay.

He was bullied so bad in school, he couldn’t take it anymore.

You been on the road six months?

Yeah.

I started out in La Grande, Oregon.

When was the last time you had a warm meal?

Sam, meet my new friend, Joe Bell.

Joe, Sam.

Sam’s my girl of all work, and our dispatcher.

Have a seat.

Nice to meet you, ma’am.

It’s a pleasure, Joe.

I called the chaplain like you asked, Sheriff.

He says once you give him the green light,

he’ll announce a youth meeting with Joe as the speaker

here at the high school this afternoon.

Joe?

Yeah, as long as you’re sure

you can drop me off where you picked me up,

because I intend to walk every single step of the way.

Then let’s get you fed.

Lunch here is usually last night’s leftovers.

I’m a sorry cook, but I’ve learned the basics

of a microwave.

That’s my son, William.

He wasn’t your typical teenage boy.

He didn’t have that “girl crazy” attitude

that we had when we were his age.

Janine’s pinto beans are even better the next day.

Hmm. Yeah.

And the day after that.

I haven’t had beans this good since I left home.

[CHUCKLES]

The stove is strictly Janine’s domain.

I barely know how to boil water.

She’s a keeper.

I was on the family computer one day, and I…

I saw that Will had been searching

what it meant to be gay.

I have to admit, at first, I…

I worried that I’d been too tough on him growing up.

We were raised Christians, after all.

I wondered if he might have told me sooner himself

if I hadn’t been such a hard-core lawman.

I thought about that same thing.

About whether I was too hard on my boy.

Well, if Jadin knew before he died

that you loved him and accepted him, that’s what…

that’s what matters, isn’t it?

I want to believe that that’s the way it was,

but I don’t know if it was.

[SIGHS]

When I broke the news to my dad

that his oldest grandson was gay, he surprised me.

He’s a Marine.

And he was a lot more accepting

of William being gay than I was.

And that made me take a long, hard look at myself.

My father didn’t understand.

Still doesn’t to this day, even with Jadin being gone.

You know a lot of folks believe that being gay is a choice?

All things being equal,

Jadin would have never chosen to be bullied.

With all things being equal,

he would have never chosen the way he died.

You know, Ben…

when I started out walking…

I didn’t know what I was doing, really.

I thought I just wanted to make Jadin’s life…

and his death matter somehow.

But what I come to know…

is I’ve been walking and trying to figure out

why my son did what he did.

And make sense out of the part that I played

in his decision to end his life.

I mean, I was too caught up in my own feelings

about what other people would think

to see how alone my own son must have felt.

I should’ve known how bad it was for him.

I… I should’ve known all along.

But instead I just…

[SIGHS]

I just made Jadin’s being gay all about Joe Bell.

About me.

Not about my boy.

Joe…

I think you made me realize something.

It never crossed my mind until this very moment that…

William might have considered taking his own life.

I don’t think I could’ve carried on if he had.

I never let him know it was okay.

And I gotta live with that.

Don’t make that same mistake, Ben.

Don’t do that to your son or yourself.

[SIGHS]

[INDISTINCT CHATTER]

[♪♪]

Um…

CROWD: Shh!

Uh…

thanks for having me here today.

Uh, my name is Joe Bell.

I’m really honored to be here to speak with you today

about something that I feel is very, very important

not only to myself, but to all of you.

[♪♪]

I think you and I are a lot more alike

than you’d want to admit, Dad.

It took me 13 years

to realize that living a lie wasn’t really living at all.

It only took you six months.

No, son.

It took me 45 years and six months.

I’m sorry, Jadin.

I’m so sorry.

I never meant for you to feel that I didn’t love you.

No, son. I never felt that.

And I always knew you loved me.

Everything just…

hurt so much.

But deep down, I always knew.

That means the world to me, son.

The whole breathing world.

[SNIFFLES]

Dad?

I love you.

I know. I know.

[SIGHS]

[WHISPERING] I love you, buddy.

[SNIFFLING]

JOE: Hey, Lola, honey. It’s me.

The reason I’m calling is to tell you that I love you.

You and Joseph.

Thanks for putting up with me all these years.

I don’t know what would’ve happened to me

if you hadn’t come along and taken me in.

I’m just truly lucky to have my family.

There’s a lot of things I’ve learned out here,

with nobody but me for company.

Some of it’s been hard to come to know.

Real hard.

I know I’ve still got a long road ahead of me.

And I’ll be better about staying in touch from now on.

You’ll see.

You give my love to our boy.

I love you.

[CELL PHONE BUZZES]

Sheriff Westin.

PATROLMAN [ON PHONE]: Sheriff, you’re requested on scene.

U.S. 40 just west of Wild Horse,

a pedestrian was struck.

DISPATCHER: 10-50 you call investigations.

Lincoln County Sheriff arriving on scene.

[INDISTINCT RADIO CHATTER]

Hurry to Jadin, Joe.

[♪♪]

[♪♪]

[BRANDI CARLILE’S “THE JOKE” PLAYING]

♪ You’re feeling nervous Aren’t you, boy? ♪

♪ With your quiet voice ♪

♪ And impeccable style ♪

♪ Don’t ever let them Steal your joy ♪

♪ And your gentle ways ♪

♪ To keep ’em From running wild ♪

♪ They can kick dirt In your face ♪

♪ Dress you down and tell you ♪

♪ That your place Is in the middle ♪

♪ When they hate The way you shine ♪

♪ I see you tugging On your shirt ♪

JOE: Okay, boys, mama…

Thank you!

JOE: You guys get together.

ALL: Happy Easter!

JOE: Okay, I want to tell you guys.

Look at me.

Look at the camera.

I love you guys so much, with all my heart.

You guys are such great kids and mamas.

♪ Let ’em spin ♪

♪ Let ’em scatter in the wind ♪

♪ I have been to the movies ♪

♪ I have seen how it ends ♪

♪ And the joke’s on them ♪

♪ You get discouraged Don’t you, girl? ♪

♪ It’s your brother’s world For awhile longer ♪

♪ You gotta dance With the devil ♪

♪ On a river To beat the stream ♪

♪ Call it living the dream ♪

♪ Call it kicking the ladder ♪

♪ They come to kick dirt In your face ♪

♪ To call you weak And then displace you ♪

♪ After carrying your baby On your back ♪

♪ Across the desert ♪

♪ I saw your eyes Behind your hair ♪

♪ And you’re looking tired ♪

♪ But you don’t look scared ♪

♪ Let ’em laugh ♪

♪ While they can ♪

♪ Let ’em spin ♪

♪ Let ’em scatter in the wind ♪

♪ I have been to the movies ♪

♪ And I’ve seen how it ends ♪

♪ And the joke’s on them ♪

♪ Let ’em laugh While they can ♪

♪ Let ’em spin ♪

♪ Let ’em scatter in the wind ♪

♪ I have been to the movies ♪

♪ I have seen how it ends ♪

♪ And the joke’s on ♪

♪ Them ♪

♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh ♪

♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh ♪

[♪♪]

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