There are times that film critics will say it’s important that people see a certain film. It’s usually because a film is amazing and it’s and is like no other experience on the big screen anywhere. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is like that. But BULLY is different. Bully is important because it’s the type of film that could literally save someone’s life one day. Director Lee Hirsch and The Weinstein Company, along with many other anti-bullying organizations have partnered with The Bully Project to bring this film to audiences around the country.
The film opens with a melancholic father talking about his son. The footage accompanying his voice indicates that his son was an enthusiastic baby and so happy with life, but as he keeps describing his son, he continues to use past tense verbs. It becomes evident pretty quickly that his son is no longer on this earth. The film then highlights some other types of people. A child who was born premature and admittedly does have a bit of a strange appearance, an openly gay female high school student in Oklahoma, a girl who fought back against her bullies but is now in juvenile corrections, and another set of parents whose child committed suicide.
Sometimes a documentary can luck out and find a way to keep a story cinematic and entertaining. UNDEFEATED is a good example of this. Bully is different. It’s semi-paint-by-numbers. It wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and it’s predictable to no end. None of that matters. It’s purpose isn’t to entertain you, it isn’t even to highlight the kids as the poster children of school bullying. Their cases are typical of school bullying and they are few of many.
But because their cases are typical are what makes this documentary so hard hitting.
*I’ll be dipping into spoiler territory here, but this film should be seen regardless of whatever information you have going into it. Among the things you’ll see in this film are:*
- A father and mother losing their first born, being stuck with the image of seeing their son hanging from inside his closet forever burned into their memories.
- An 11 year old boy is a pall bearer at his best friend’s funeral and he’ll forever live with the guilt knowing he never did anything to help stop the abuse his friend suffered from.
- An openly gay teenage girl turns her families beliefs onto their head and they all of a sudden will never think it’s a sin to be gay.
- A shy girl has had enough and takes a gun to school, and the moment she brandishes that gun in public immediately commits over 50 felonies and faces hundreds of years in prison for it.
These are things that no one should ever see or have happen to them, but unfortunately these things occur in real life. This brutal and unflinching look at bullying is sometimes too much, but it’s the only way to properly get the message across.
I was fortunate enough to have never been bullied in school. I also never was a bully to anyone, but if it ever occurred I must have been oblivious to it. I am someone who doesn’t fit the main demographic that this film is going after and it still moved me, almost to tears. This film should be seen. Period. The American school system has it all wrong, and something needs to be done about kids being bullied. I don’t review this film as a form of entertainment and I don’t say it’s important to see this film because it’s a good time at the theater. It’s an important film to watch if you’ve got kids in school, are a kid in school, or are a teacher of kids in school. It may be the most important film you can ever see.