“Bully” (A Nickell-odeon Review)

May 3, 2012

At school-bus stops, in busses carrying students to and from schools, and in schoolyards and schools themselves, as well as online, bullying takes place at an alarming rate—an estimated over 13 million American kids suffering this “most common form of violence young people in this country experience” (online at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt168218/plotsummary).

Now a documentary showing how everyone is affected by bullying—as either bully, victim, or bystander—is the first to become a feature movie, in part thanks to a grant from Sundance.

Bully gets close up and personal in the lives of several kids and their families who suffer from bullying today. Included are the families of two boys driven to suicide—one found hanged in his bedroom closet. The families are on a crusade to prevent other children and families from suffering a like fate. They challenge school officials and hold rallies, seeking to raise the public’s consciousness.

Again and again, the victims are targeted because they are perceived as “different,” and they are called names like “fag” and “geek”; one twelve-year-old’s features earn him the cruel name “fish face.” As one might expect, such abuse tells us more about the bullies than about the bullied. It is the aggressors who deserve critical appellations: not only “bully” but “bigot” and “fool” and even worse.

Written by Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen, Bully uses cinema-vérité—often seemingly inartfully, but to good effect. One comes away with a nagging feeling that one should do something—a measure of the film’s effectiveness.

Rating: Three wooden nickels (out of four)

Three Nickels