JOE BELL*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) calls his wife on the phone as he walks down the highway and leaves her a message checking in. A bus nearly hits him, and his son Jadin (Reid Miller) chastises him. Joe arrives at a high school, where he gives a presentation to the students about tolerance. He tells the students about how bullying and how harmful it is while Jadin watches from the back of the auditorium. Joe says understanding begins at home and as long as that happens everything will be alright. Afterward, Joe and Jadin set up a campsite along the highway to sleep for the night. Jadin criticizes him for his speech the night before being a lie.
Flashback to La Grande, Oregon, nine months earlier. Jadin tells his dad that he’s being picked on by boys at school because he’s different. His father pushes him on why, and Jadin says it’s because he’s gay. Joe tells him he taught him how to box and he should know how to defend himself – he then tells Jadin to let nature take its course and it will work itself out. His wife Lola (Connie Britton) tells him that it won’t, and assures Jadin that they love him. Joe leaves in a huff and Lola hugs Jadin. Later, Jadin overhears Joe saying that maybe it’s just a phase.
Joe sees Jadin practicing cheerleading in the front yard – his parents let him join the squad. Embarrassed, Joe goes out and tells Jadin to practice in the back yard. When Jadin asks why, Joe tells him to “shut the fuck up” and do as he’s told. Later, Joe goes to Jadin’s room and tells him he’s going to try to be better and tells him he loves him. Back in the present, Joe and Jadin continue to walk the highway in Idaho. Joe and Jadin argue about which is better, La Grande or New York City. Jadin argues that New York has Lady Gaga, and begins singing “Born This Way” and Joe surprises Jadin by singing along, admitting he knows the words.
Joe and Jadin stop in a diner to eat, where the waitress notes she’s seen him on TV. The news on the TV mentions same-sex marriage, and a bar patron insults it and calls it “fairy shit”. Joe goes to him and tells him he’s on a walk for his son Jadin and gives him a card for his walk for inclusion. Joe leaves and Jadin tells him that that is barely going to change those men. Jadin says the people at his talks aren’t the issue, it’s men like that and their kids. Jadin says Joe told him he needed to fight but Joe is just handing out cards and walking away.
Back in flashbacks. At school, Jadin continues to be bullied by the football players, but one football player, Chance (Igby Rigney) makes lingering eye contact with him in the lunchroom. At a Halloween party, the boy invites Jadin to smoke with him and they end up kissing. At the football game, Jadin performs with the cheerleading squad, but he is mocked and harassed by some of the members of the crowd. Joe, embarrassed, takes Lola by the hand and leaves the stands. Later, Jadin receives harassing and bullying comments on social media. His little brother Joseph (Maxwell Jenkins) comforts him.
Back on the road, Joe tells Jadin he was supportive of him and Jadin points out he only came to one game and walked away during it, but Joe says he was afraid for him. Joe calls Lola at a rest stop, Lola is a little drunk and Joe criticizes her drinking, and she points out that he isn’t there and has no idea what’s going on. That night camped out, Joe cooks for him and Jadin and it begins raining. Jadin begins cheering in the rain, eventually coaxing Joe into doing it with him.
Back in flashbacks, Jadin and Chance talk about what they want to do with their lives. Jadin wonders if they could go to New York together and Chance tells Jadin he might be aiming too high. In present day, Joe and Jadin arrive in Salt Lake City. Joe preps to go to a gay bar, and Jadin teases him about being nervous a guy might hit on him, but then reassures him it’ll be ok. He tells him he wishes he could go with him and wishes Joe good luck with a hug.
At the gay bar, Joe meets with some patrons who tell him about their experiences growing up gay. A drag queen comes up and asks Joe what he’s doing there and one of the locals explains Joe is walking across the country to promote anti-bullying in support of his son. The drag queen asks why he didn’t bring his son, and Joe tells her that his son is dead. He returns to his motel room, where Jadin is no longer – since the Jadin on the walk has been a figment of Joe’s mind.
At his next motel stop, Joe calls Lola and Joseph. Joseph asks about him and Lola coming to visit Joe on the journey, an idea Joe supports. Later, they arrive for their visit and go to see a local rodeo show. At their hotel, a couple recognizes Joe from his walking across America and asks for a picture with him. Later, Lola gives Joe a note that was left at Jadin’s grave by one of his bullies indicating he wants to apologize. Joe is furious, yelling at Lola and Joseph and saying there is no forgiveness for the kids who bullied Jadin. He continues berating them until Joseph screams at him to stop.
The next day, Lola confronts Joe about being on a forgiveness walk and says she’s supported him with his walk but he’s going to lose her and Joseph if he keeps having these outbursts. She tells him not to come home until he’s figured out what he’s doing out there. She wonders if he’s walking for celebrity or walking for Jadin. She says if he’s really walking for Jadin, Jadin will let him know when it’s time to come home. Joe continues his walk, and continues giving speeches and talks and interviews, ending up on various news programs. Later, Lola calls Joe and tells Joe that she found an essay that Jadin wrote. She reads it to Joe, and it is all about feeling different and bullied and how badly he wants it to be over.
In flashbacks, Jadin is grabbed and assaulted by a group of boys in the locker room. He and his parents meet with a school administrator, who advises Jadin to perhaps transfer schools or go to therapy. She counsels them not to file charges against the boys who did this. The boys continue to harass Jadin across social media. Jadin calls one of his friends who is on the way with her mom to visit someone out of town. Jadin says he can’t go home and begs them to pick him up, but his friend’s mom doesn’t want to and says they’re too far out of town despite his friend pleading with her. His friend promises to come see him first thing when they come back. Lola finds Jadin’s suicide note as a jogger comes across Jadin’s body, having hung himself.
Lola, desperate to have it not be true, drives to the scene but sobs when she sees she is too late. The Bell family mourns Jadin’s loss. Joe sits out in the car with a gun, and Joseph enters and asks him what he’s doing, but Joe orders him to go back inside. Joe goes to a park and sobs. The next day, he tells Lola he’s decided to walk across America to New York City. He says he wants to tell everyone about bullying and about what happened, and that he’s doing it for Jadin. Lola isn’t sure where he’ll get the money.
In the present, Joe calls Lola and tearfully tells her he isn’t sure he can keep going and wants to go home. Lola reminds him he’s doing it for Jadin. He tells Lola he saw Jadin and he’s been leading him, but now he’s disappeared. Later on as he walks down the highway, someone who has heard about his story pulls over beside him and provides him with supplies and food. Sheriff Westin (Gary Sinise) pulls over to investigate the man on the road, and Joe explains his story to him. GARY brings Joe in for a hot meal and sets up a speaking engagement at the high school for him.
Joe sees pictures of Westin’s son in his home. Westin tells Joe his son is gay, and they share their experiences with their sons. Joe tells him what he’s learned is that he was too caught up in his own feelings to see how his son felt. He made it all about himself. Westin tells him he didn’t consider until now that his son might have considered taking his own life, and that he doesn’t think he could have gone on if he had. Joe tells him he never let Jadin know it was okay and he has to live with that, and urges Westin not to make the same mistake.
Joe goes to give his talk and sees Jadin sitting in the stands with the other students. Joe continues walking and once again sees Jadin. Joe tells Jadin how sorry he is, and Jadin tells him he always knew that Joe loved him, he was just in a lot of pain. Jadin tells Joe he loves him, and Joe cries and says he knows.. Joe calls Lola and leaves a message telling them he loves them and thanking them for putting up with him. He says he’s learned a lot on the road and promises to be better about staying in touch.
Westin gets a call about an accident and arrives at the scene where a truck has collided with a pedestrian – Joe, killing him. Westin sees Joe’s body and tells him to “hurry to Jadin”. Joe walks through a field where he finds Jadin.
Post-script explains that Joe was hit and killed by a truck whose driver had fallen asleep. Photos and videos of the real Bell family play.
Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) is walking across the country giving speeches and talks about bullying and tolerance in honor of his son Jadin (Reid Miller), who is walking with him. Flashbacks reveal that Jadin was brutally bullied at school for being gay, and while his mother Lola (Connie Britton) was supportive, Joe was embarrassed of Jadin and not very sympathetic. Jadin eventually could not take the constant harassment and committed suicide.
The Jadin walking with Joe is a figment since Jadin had actually died and the walk is happening in honor of his life. Joe comes to realize that he made Jadin's situation about himself and should have been there more for Jadin. Before Joe can complete his walk across the country, he is hit and killed by a truck whose driver had fallen asleep. The film ends with footage of the real Bell family.