Depending Solely on ‘Craigslist’

Courtesy of CLJ Films

When I first saw the trailer for such an interesting concept for a documentary, I had high expectations. The film not only lives up to them, but also has some surprising elements.

“Craigslist Joe” follows 32-year-old Joe Garner setting off on a month-long adventure. Garner leaves his home in LA without money, shelter, food and even contact with loved ones, and leaves with one backpack filled with his laptop, phone, passport and the clothes on his back.

The goal is to let technology, an entity that often isolates individuals from the world, guide his journey across the country. He is only allowed to use Craigslist for guidance in finding the essentials he will need to live: a place to stay, free meals, work, fun and even companionship. How he will manage and stay sane is a mystery, but this is what makes the documentary intriguing.

On his first day, he sits in a park using nearby Wi-Fi to search for work. After a long day of rejection, he then decides to find a place to sleep that night. This is where the documentary seems unreal. He starts his search for shelter around six p.m. and surprisingly finds it after seeing an advertisement online for a free improv show, attending it and meeting a former marine who has a bedroom to spare. The entire documentary contains random, similar scenarios such as this. Whether it‘s an improv show or a free breakdancing class, he finds himself able to not only trust strangers, but also encounter strangers who trust him to stay in their homes.

After just a couple of weeks, Garner has found his way from LA to NYC without any money and just the simple aid of Craigslist. He makes this look easy and almost desirable, but then come the two nights out of the month where he is nearly homeless because he can’t find a place to sleep. Scenes such as these are heartbreaking because you see how tired Garner is, and you just know someone out there in the big city has a couch or room for him but he just didn’t have the luck of meeting them.

Garner often spends his time finding rideshares and volunteer work from the site. He goes to help others, and then others often end up helping him, with a free meal, a place to sleep or both.   Although this documentary could be all about Garner, it is really about other people – their journeys, struggles and passions. These scenes can be cheesy, but Garner seems to really be learning from and appreciating his experiences. Knowing that he is not going on this journey in vain makes the documentary more enjoyable.

On his journey, he meets a wide range of people that make the film interesting and quirky: a dominatrix in Chicago, a woman who is beating cancer by taking a natural approach in New York, a man helping raise money for the repairs in New Orleans, and even Craig of Craigslist himself.

By the end of the film, Garner has made a full circle around the country without having any money and relying on help from complete strangers. This film reminds audiences that there are many kind-hearted and trustworthy people in the world still.

“Craigslist Joe” is perfect for those who are already a fan of the website or would like to know more about what it is and what it offers. Garner’s crazy adventure is surprisingly enlightening, touching and worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5