Directed, shot, edited and co-written by Mark Battle (with Pamela Conway) and produced by Sweven Films; Here Lies Joe is a short look at depression, suicidal tendencies and two people who connect as they each compulsively seek death. Dean Temple is Joe Barnes and Andi Morrow is “Z” two disparate souls who meet at a suicide addict meeting, chaired by Bill (Timothy J. Cox). Bill attempts to have the small group talk about their feelings.
At the start of the film, we see Joe taping his passenger window around a plastic hosepipe that he attaches to the exhaust of his car. After securing both ends of the hose, Joe starts his engine and the film shifts to the meeting.
In the group, the somewhat timid “chair” Bill prompts the members to talk. Carol (Mary Hronicek), who talks about her suicidal fish, is a flake who becomes aggressive when the younger Z comes in. The late arrival to the meeting zeroes in on Joe whom she calls “new guy.”
When the meeting ends, she coerces Joe into giving her a ride home and the two spend an afternoon together.
Director Mark Battle gives us a look at some intensely unhappy people who are dealing with their feelings as best they can. Z is flip and dismissive of other people’s pain. Joe cannot communicate his thoughts at all and yet, the younger woman and the older man, who is “in transition,” manage to find common ground.
The film is quiet. Here Lies Joe is a contemplative look at these two characters who would not have met except for the suicide prevention organization session. A program that is, as Bill obliquely points out, not too successful.
Each character, Z and Joe, never specifically state why they are drawn to thoughts of suicide, although with Barnes it appears to be a reversal of fortune. Z just seems to be absorbed by death although later more of her inner thought process is revealed.
The humor in Here Lies Joe is low key but all the more effective because of it. There is a scene in a cemetery where Barnes is lying in front of a gravestone while Z sits in a tree. Battle gives us a visual gag that is simple and amusingly apt.
Temple gives an excellent low key performance as the man whose life has overwhelmed him. Morrow is funny, quirky and able to show that all her affectations hide a deep pain. The couple connect and by the end of the film, there is a splendid twist that will make the viewer smile.
Morrow is, at turns, impish and adorable with her slanted look at life and her flirtatious approach to Joe. She and Temple have a odd chemistry that works. His character’s reluctant acceptance of the younger woman, and Z’s interest in him, does not stop either from their pursuit of death.
Timothy J. Cox, as the awkward “chair” at the beginning shows, perhaps, what all these people have in common; an inability to really connect with others.
The cinematography is just as low key as the performances. With each scene, apart from the one at the meeting, has a sort of darkness to it. While the picture is clear and crisp there is the feel of a blurring of the light. It suits the storyline brilliantly.
Here Lies Joe deals with a somber subject with gentle humour and a sweetness that is touching. A 5 star short film so effective that after it ends one wants to immediately watch it again.