bul·ly: ? ?[bool-ee] Show IPA noun, plural bul·lies, verb, bul·lied, bul·ly·ing, adjective, interjection
A blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
That is what a dictionary explanation of bully is. A bully is something we all know. It’s something that has been in pop culture since post war American and invention of TV. From Leave it to Beaver to the Gooch in Diff’rent Strokes to even Peter Parker’s school life before becoming Spider-man. It’s something that has been fed to us as part of growing up in the modern world and all you have to do is just stand up and make a show of force. Well that’s easier said than done. The film Bully by Lee Hirsch shows bullying for what it is today for most kids in America.
Bully follows the lives of three teens from the ages of 13-16 during a year at school. It also follows the lives of two families as they each deal with a loss of child from suicide from constant bullying at school. Hirsch follows a boy named Alex and his trouble on the bus and in class as he terribly treated by other kids and his hard time at making friends. It also follows a young girl who is locked up after bringing a gun on a school bus to stop kids from picking on her. The last one is Kelby a 16-year girl who came out as gay and has to deal with the whole community ostracizing her and her family.
Hirsh uses a technique that feels like a mix of a reality and an episode of Frontline. He captures the kids doing everything on screen and the kids really act as if the camera isn’t there. He captures his subjects in the world and balances nicely with on screen testimonials of their thoughts on things. Hirsch also has a presence in the film without ever being seen on screen or heard. There is one point in the film where they actually get involved, something that is a no-no in documentary filmmaking but they felt they needed to for kid. It’s something pretty admirable.
This documentary very much is trying to push an issue. If that is something as a viewer that bothers you then maybe you should sit this one out. The film does though without an overall judgmental tone that many current documentaries have. This one eschews that and goes for empathy.
So the most that can be said about this is that it’s a film that you should see. It’s also something that you could take teen to and have a talk about. Those ages are something that we’ve all been through and bullies are something everyone has had to deal with in some form or another. The film is relatable to many and it’s a good thing the rating has been changed so that many people can now see it and hopefully you’re one of them.
Final Grade is B
Originally published on Reel Film News