Walkaway Joe sets out to be a family drama about the often strained relationships between fathers and their sons, but by the end of the journey we are left wanting more.
Dallas (Julian Feder) and his father Cal (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hustle pool at the local bar. They are good at it and make a few bucks. It’s obvious that Cal is more concerned with the hustling and the drinking than he is with raising his son. Dallas just sees his father and wants nothing more but to follow in his footsteps and be the next pool shark, even at 14 years old he takes to the game well and can beat anyone. Dallas is completely blind to his fathers shortcomings, thinking it’s cool that he can drive his dad home and blind to the fact that Cal is hiding from gambling debt collectors. He wants to sleep in, skip school, and stay up late playing pool at the bars with his father. When his mother (Julie Ann Emery) steps in, not allowing him to skip school and bringing her concerns about her son to Cal, she is dismissed and told not to worry.
Dallas wakes up the next morning to find his dad is gone, leaving only a note saying he wont be back this time. He runs away from home on a search to find his dad and convince him to come home. Knowing he only needs to search his fathers favorite pool hall he sets out on his his bike with his pool cue on his back. His journey doe not go well and he ends up stranded. He is helped by Joe (David Strathairn), a drifter who is living out of an RV and obviously hiding some secrets from his own past. It is obvious from the start that these two will help each other, one as a wayward father, the other as an abandoned son, each coming to terms with their reality. The story movies along, plot point to next plot point, ticking all the boxes.
Not much happens in this meandering story, there are more montage shots of Louisiana highways as Dallas goes on the run than any actual pool playing. The unsurprising story of redemption and second chances is not given much of a chance for success. The directorial debut of long time actor Tom Wright is made with earnest and good intentions and shoots for emotionally profound often landing short. David Strathairn and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are very compelling when they are on screen, with Strathairn doing some heavy lifting and having a few genuinely touching moments, but not even their engaging performances can right this ship. Unfortunately the formulaic, cliché ridden script coupled with a young lead whose acting is nowhere near that of his co-stars make for dull and uninspiring story.
2 out of 5