Premise: A documentary about bullying in American schools. It follows an outcasted boy who’s kind of odd looking, a lesbian teenager who got shunned by her Bible Belt town, a girl who snapped and brought a gun on a school bus, and a couple of families who’ve had children kill themselves as a result of bullying. Thankfully, the filmmakers held back showing the gruesome footage of a swirly in action.
-What I enjoyed most was actually seeing all the layers of the system failing right before my eyes. The parents failing to recognize how bad things are. The vice principal not listening to the parents. The school board failing to acknowledge a flaw in their design. All while this poor kid continues to get choked out by a piece of shit bully on the school bus every day.
-The structure jumps around like a dark version of the documentary Spellbound. Except where that film is about the positive nature of getting an education, Bully is about how difficult it can be to physically get to the school in the first place.
-There’s some heart tugging moments. I like those because I enjoy feeling feelings every now and then. Lets me know I’m not some kind of monster. So if 11 year olds killing themselves makes you cry, then bring some tissues.
-It provides some insight, but not a lot of solutions. Merely a “please get along” kind of message. I don’t see some asshole bully watching this and really changing his ways. I mean there’s a hopeful rally cry at the end, but changing an entire nation of douchey kids into nice people won’t happen because of one movie. It’s a start, though. Baby steps.
-This film uses NON-STOP blurring and rack focus shooting techniques. AND THEY ARE FUCKING TERRIBLE. What an unnecessary way to shoot a documentary. My senior thesis documentary in college was shot less annoying than this, and trust me, I did not shoot it well.
-I thought it would have been really interesting if one of the stories involved following an actual bully around, and got a taste of what his thought process was. I almost think a more effective film would have involved less sympathy for the victims, and more degradation of the attackers. But I guess that would just be bullying the bullies, I suppose? The circle of hate!
Final Thoughts: Maybe it’s because I’m not a teenager anymore, and was never a bullied or bullying teenager back then, but the film didn’t exactly affect me in a life changing way. I certainly found it interesting. But probably not inspiring. I know it wants to be an agenda film, but the way that it’s made, it came across to me more as an observational film about a few specific kids. I don’t think it will affect that many teenagers, to be honest. Some kids are nice, some kids are assholes. Everybody develops their character in college (for better or worse). I suppose if Bully does anything as an outside impact, it will show adults how powerless these kids feel when they are bullied, and how they think no one will help them, and thus they decide to end their lives. Maybe it will give the adults in their lives a little heads up to actually listen to these kids, instead of assuming it’s not that big of a deal. It seems like a lot of these kids feel alone in the fight, and they just wish they could have someone who has their back for a change.
7.5 out of 10