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Bully

It’s not a great documentary, but it’s a pretty good one. I’ve read a variety of reviews on this that range from it being “important” to “limited”. Both sides are right, methinks. But if director Lee Hirsch’s intention was simply to shine a light on a small spectrum of examples of pre-teen and early teen children that have been abused by their classmates…then it’s mission accomplished. Just don’t expect the high level of skill employed in the quartet of documentary Oscar nominees I’ve recently covered here, and you’ll do fine. This one is more a portrait of a bullying society that’s omnipresent throughout our school system. It is important for school children to see, especially when considering that all are potential bullies and/or victims of the practice. In fact, it would have been nice to witness some focus on that fine-line that seems to exist. The one that begs the question of can you be both victim and perpetrator? Peer pressure seems to be that largely ignored “elephant in the room”. The issue is touched on, but never adequately explored. What’s not glossed over is the infuriating ignorance and incompetence of a variety of school authorities and administrators. “Boys will be boys” is a decades-old defense that should’ve been long put to bed, but “Bully” contains at least one utterance of that phrase by a woman who is in a position to realize the contrary. Is that turning a “blind eye”? Or staggering ineptitude? It’s never fully clear. Considering that some of those victims featured in this chronicle were pushed to the point of taking their own lives, it appears that time is of the essence for many. Therefore, people must be made to see. “Bully” provides an invaluable service on that avenue alone. There is harrowing stuff to behold here. It is often too difficult to watch. And as a parent of 8 and 5 year-old boys, I hope to be able to recognize all the “signposts” if they pop up down the line. The school system my sons attend have a so-called “zero-tolerance” mandate towards bullies. But is such a thing even possible? Surely, certain incidents will seep through the cracks, occasionally. And, of course, the unspoken fear is that distinct possibility of a lashing-out bullied child bringing some sort of weaponry to school. That scenario occurs in “Bully”…but thankfully the gun is never fired. Sadly, as we all have too recently been made aware…that is not always the way things play out. So, if for now, this doc is what we’ve got…good enough. The stories of Alex, Ja’Maya, Kelby and Tyler are compelling and heartbreaking. Better exposes will come along. This is a fine enough start.     Grade:  B 

 

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