Movie Review: “Bully”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, December 14, 2012 at 10:00 am.

(Photo: Sundance Institute Documentary Fund)

Summary: A documentary on bullying, focusing on the tragic suicides of Tyler Long and Ty Smalley.

Review: Bullying is not a new phenomenon. Many of us can tell tragic stories of being tortured in our youth. Whether it is due to the Internet, social media or the pervasive meanness that dominates our culture, bullying today is an epidemic and Bully arrives with important timing.

Directed by Lee Hirsch, the film takes an intense look at bullying from the perspective of the victims. Through various stories, which include a young girl from Mississippi who brought a gun to school to protect herself, a lesbian teen ostracized from her community and a boy named Alex who is beaten on school bus rides. Bully documents the war zones many of our children endure. Shocking footage of children being attacked or mourning parents at the funerals of kids who committed suicide tug at your heart.

The stories in Bully are powerful and at times frustrating, especially despicable scenes of school officials failing to hear the outcries of their students. Hirsch clearly has a message: bullying is wrong and what are we, as Americans, going to do about it? However, one angle Hirsch missed was the voice of the bully.  What drives them to torture someone else? People aren’t born bullies, they are taught to bully. Is it their parents? Socioeconomic background? Were they once bullied?  None of this was explored, which left the doc feeling unbalanced, especially when the main question is, “Why?”

Regardless of the flick’s shortcomings, one cannot deny the awful stories of these teens and the results bullying had on their entire family. Hopefully the film will inspire parents to have a candid conversation with their children about being bullied and bullying. There is no pretty way to tie-up the horrors of children who are no longer with us, but Bully brings some needed attention.

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