Discussing the short film Here Lies Joe at length would ruin the viewing experience. So, here’s all I am going to say about the plot- the somewhat reserved Joe (Dean Temple) meets the impulsive Z (Andi Morrow) at a suicide anonymous meeting. She gets him to give her a ride after the support group ends. Z then convinces Joe to take her to a graveyard where she tells him all about the who is buried next to whom. Z eventually gets Joe to laugh, which is quite the accomplishment.
You’ll need to watch all of Mark Battle’s 23-minute comedic drama to discover what happens next. If you are so inclined to do so, you’ll be treated to a rather engaging tale, though it is not exactly all that original. The story of a serious man (while it is not exclusively men, 95% of the time it seems to be) meeting a more free-spirited woman who opens him up to a new way of seeing things is old hat. Here Lies Joe does not break this formula for the most. As such, the movie holds little in the way of surprises.
While that descriptor might make Z sound like a manic pixie dream girl, due to various circumstances and story beats, she is not one. I cannot go into details without spoiling, but she has much more to her than just how she relates to Joe/ how Joe views her. That is because Battle, along with co-writer Pamela Conway, are much more interested in the characters than the plot. To that end, Joe and Z make for inviting and personable protagonists.
“…Joe meets the impulsive Z at a suicide anonymous meeting.”
Their distinct personalities play off each other well so that you instantly understand what they see in each other. The side characters, while relegated to a few scenes, come across strongly as well. The lead of the support group Bill (Timothy J. Cox), may only have a few lines, but his compassion for everyone in the group shines through.
Of course, a character-centric drama (levity though it has) like Here Lies Joe lives and dies by its cast. If the actors did not share chemistry or if they didn’t come across as authentic this or that person, the whole affair would feel off. Temple and Morrow are magnificent. When Z reads a poem about death at the meeting, over Bill’s protests that it is inappropriate, Joe speaks up and says he liked the poem. Marrow instantly sells Z’s tendency to act however she feels right then and there, without much thought behind it (or so it seems). Later on in the meeting, Temple convincingly tells a member (is that the right word?) that he is sorry about her fish. I am not sure how many actors can pull off that line and make it work.
Here Lies Joe won’t win any awards for originality. But its emphasis on characters works, as everyone is written to be interesting and unique, without feeling forced. The dialogue is realistic, and the cast sells their roles to absolute perfection.