We all know bullying is a pretty big problem in this country, and in many parts of the world. Our friends out at Anchor Bay sent over a copy of “Bully” for us to review, and this is going to drive home the sheer scope of the bullying problem when it comes out Feb. 12. While its solutions may not be what some would like, there’s always something to be said for awareness.
“Bully” is a documentary, joining the lives of five kids (Alex, Kelby, Tyler, Jameya and Devon), and by extension five families, through a school year. The families themselves are often very different–some have lost kids, others have run afoul of the law, and others have more unusual things going on–but one thing appears to be somewhat in common. Most of the students’ lives have been touched in one way or another by the bullying phenomenon.
Some of this is going to be hard to hear about. Frankly, when the first minute involves a sad-looking father watching home movies, you know this isn’t going to be a shot of happy jolly. This isn’t the movie to be watching when you’re depressed. Come to think of it, this isn’t exactly great to watch when you’re happy, either, unless you’ve just been entirely too happy lately and think that kind of thing needs to be stopped. But at the same time, it’s important. This is the kind of thing that’s going on on a regular basis in a lot of middle schools, and some high schools, nationwide.
There are a lot of issues in “Bully”, and the question becomes, what to do about it all. The answers can be unpalatable; how do you tell Kelby’s Bible Belt, Oklahoma, town that they must become accepting of the lesbian that they genuinely believe is an abomination? Yet at the same time, must anyone, lesbian or no, sit in a room listening to the descriptions of those like them being burned alive? How far must schools go in defense of their more awkward or different charges? Is it enough to say a report of bullying should merit a response? How do you filter out those who would use it as a weapon? There are a lot of issues and they don’t have easy solutions. Well, except for one young man, Devon; who described at a school board meeting how he finally “went off” on some kid, and how standing up for himself made the bullies finally leave him alone. Perhaps there’s our solution; it certainly seems to have worked.
As for special features, you’ll have your choice of English or Spanish subtitles, you’ll get deleted scenes, several featurettes including several about Alex, an original sketch from Kelby, and a bit from Meryl Streep about bullying in general, a still-frame commercial for “Bully: The Book”–which frankly, I found low-brow as all get out; this is a movie about bullying and you’re hawking your various wares? Where is your social responsibility now, pal?–and the “Good Morning America” segment which featured “Bully”. There’s even an entire separate version of “Bully” specifically geared toward younger audiences; “Bully” by itself is PG-13.
“Bully” is an impressive little piece of work that asks many distressing questions, but doesn’t provide too many answers. Still, this is an excellent piece for awareness, and is worth it for just about anyone with young children.