BULLY Review

8.5

Film Pulse Score

Release Date: April 13, 2012
Director: Lee Hirsch
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Both heart-wrenching and maddening, Bully stands as not only a well-crafted documentary, but a call for action against an epidemic that seems to go unnoticed by school boards, law enforcement, and government officials.  It’s a film that simply needs to be seen by the masses, and looked upon as a testament that change must occur.

Following a group of students, Bully takes an in depth look at the plight of Bully in our school system, and exposes the gravity of the problem. Through interviews with the central characters, their parents, and various school officials, as well as footage of the children in school obtained by the documentary crew, we get a first hand look at the hell these kids are subjected to.

In addition to chronicling the lives of these kids, the film also follows the story of two families who had a child ultimately end their own life because of relentless bullying. Both families begin to fight against the school boards, and attempt to raise awareness in order to hopefully prevent more of these tragic events.

Bully seems to take a two-pronged attack when dealing with this subject. First, it serves as a narrative, introducing us to these kids, and helping us see the constant pain and ridicule they deal with in school.  Secondly, the film exposes the utter complacency and incompetence of the school system which these kids and their parents rely on to keep them safe. All too often we hear the term “Boys will be boys,” followed by some reassuring words in order to create a false sense of comfort.

On the technical side, Bully is expertly shot, and looks great on the big screen. Director Lee Hirsch, who also acted as the film’s cinematographer, combines the stark beauty of rural America, with more traditional documentary shots. This adds just enough artistic flare as to not distract from the main objective of the film.

One aspect they should have expounded upon just slightly, would be the outcome of the families.  It would have been nice to have some title cards at the end of the film to let us know how the kids and families were doing since shooting ended.  It would also be interesting to find out what happened to some of the school officials from the film.

Along with that, it would have also made a bigger impact if the film gave the audience some statistics on the current state of bullying in America.  If people saw numbers to back the claims, then they would know how widespread the problem is.

Nitpicks aside, this is still an important film. It’s a film that should be viewed by every parent, teacher, and student in this country.  Thankfully, due to the massive online petition, this film was granted a PG-13 rating by the MPAA, and its resulting reach will become much greater. Even if you have no desire or interest to see this movie, see it anyway. It’s not something that’s meant to entertain, it’s meant to educate.