Kid-friendly movie review: Bully (2011)
- Written by my husband, Mike
At times heartbreaking and at times uplifting Bully is essential viewing as it brings the oft-ignored issue of bullying into the national spotlight. In recent years bullying has taken on a larger role in our society as high-profile incidents have captured national attention and anti-bullying projects (such as It Gets Better) have emerged. Yet it has remained difficult for parents and educators to discuss and deal with. Bully, a documentary directed by Lee Hirsch, gives an up-close look into the lives of bullied youths and does its part to start important dialogue about bullying.
The real strength of Bully is that it allows the kids – particularly those most affected by bullying – to tell the story themselves. In traditional documentary style, Hirsch lets the story unfold in front of us. As such, we see them talk candidly about their experiences, we see them during happy times and tough times, but also see them being physically and emotionally bullied. This is, at times, difficult to watch because the camera observes some pretty horrific treatment and is there simply as passive observer – the filmmakers are careful not to intervene and to let things play out (although they do report some physically dangerous bullying to one child’s parents so they can protect his safety). There are some very difficult scenes to watch both with kids bullying other kids but also in showcasing the inability of educators and parents to deal with bullying.
Parents will also likely find it difficult to hear stories of other parents dealing with the loss of their own children to suicides induced by bullying and other cruel treatment. However, the uplifting aspects come when we see the bullied kids and their parents take a stand and empower themselves and the audience with ways our society can try to end bullying. Some have indicated that the movie doesn’t provide all of the answers and doesn’t tell the full story of the complexities of bullying (for instance, the back story of those that bully is not told). However, Bully plays an essential role by starting the conversation and bringing the issue of bullying to everyone in a straightforward and heart-wrenching way. If you don’t think bullying is a problem now, you will after you see this movie.
Is Bully appropriate for kids?
There was much debate over the rating of this film. The MPAA originally suggested an “R” rating because of some colorful language. However, the producers removed a few of those instances and the rating was reduced to a PG-13. This is not a movie that I would want younger kids to see – while the message is important there are some very difficult scenes to watch.
Older kids, closer to age 13, should see this film, though as it will likely resonate with them at least in some way. Parents absolutely need to see this film, however, and then make the call on whether they think their child is ready to see some intense, real, and in-your-face bullying that ultimately has an uplifting message.
Over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation. The new documentary film BULLY, directed by Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch, brings human scale to this startling statistic, offering an intimate, unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families.
BULLY is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis. Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, BULLY opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.
For more info, visit TheBullyProject.com
How about you? Do you plan to take the kids to see Bully in the theaters?