Bully is a heart-warming character-driven documentary. At its centre are five portraits of teens whose stories each illustrate a different face of the bullying crisis in American schools. It is not difficult to extrapolatet these incidents to all schools and communities worldwide.
Bullied relentlessly by their classsmates, the subjets turn to self-loathing, suicide, or attempted homicide. Bully follows the five kids and their families over the course of one school year. Among the stories of these families are two who have lost children to suicide and one who suffers deply as her daughter awaits trial on pulling a gun on her tormenters in the school bus.
The school bureaucrats along with the MPAA (America's movie censor) seem to have absolutely no understanding of the severity of the problem. It's inexcusable for the MPAA to slap an R rating on this movie that will in effect prevent it from being shown to the very youth that need to see the film. Fortunatley, the Canadian provinces that regulate film ratings have seen the stupidity of the MPAA rating and have classified the film PG which suggest kids can see the film preferably with their parents. In fact a few parents did bring their kids to the movie showing at which I was present.
Bully is the kind of film as many students as possible should see but the R rating in the USA limits access to the film to all except high school seniors and older and keeps the film from being shown in schools. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
School administration along with community authorities and the police underplay the issue with "kids will be kids" and "everything is fine" on the bus. It is frustrating in watching this film to see how totally ineffective the school personnel are at confronting the problem. While some minimize the problem, a number of officials don't even see it.
The Georgia teen Tyler Long, first seen in home videos mugging for the camera, ends up hanging himself in his closet becasue he had reached the end of his rope and couldn't take another day of being bullied. His father laments, "He had a target on his back. Everybody knew that."
Everybody also seemed to know about another of the subjects of the film, Alex, 12, of Iowa who regularly gets pushed and shoved around on the school bus. Everyone also knew about Kelby, 16, who is ostracized and run over because of her sexual orientation and about Ja'Meya, 14, of Mississippi, a bright student who points a gun at her tormentors on the bus and ends up in a reformatory. Meanwhile the tormentors are not disciplined. Ty, 11, of Oklahoma, also takes his own life after years of school abuse.
Parents complain to the schools but they just shrug it off and nothing gets done. None of the schools involved have a desperately needed anti-bullying programme like that soon to be implemented in Ontario schools. One school superinrendent admits that bullying is a problem, but "Is it a major, overarching concern?...No, it is not." Kirk Smalley, the stepfather of Ty, notes, "I gaurantee you, if some politician's kid was being picked on in a public school, there would be change tomorrow. There would be law tomorrow."
Unfortunately no bullies were interviewed for this film. One longs for the Michael Moore approach where the bullies and school officials would be called out and embarrassed and pressured to do something about the situation. However, one kid who is a victim of bullying himself, admits he used to be a bully but stopped picking on kids because, "I realized what a jerk I was being."
Bullying does look at any schools worldwide wher the problem is being addressed. This would have been a welcome addition to the fim. Still the film illustrated the plight of those being bullied and the toll it takes.