Lee Hirsch’s “Bully” can’t help but move you. It’s an important and powerful film, one that should be required viewing for kids of any age – and their parents.
With luck, The Weinstein Company will prevail in its battle against the R-rating conferred upon the film by the myopic and narrow-minded MPAA ratings board. The rating supposedly is based on the fact that several kids in the film are captured on film saying the word “fuck.” Needless to say, kids of all ages have heard it – and are probably using it regularly, whether their parents know it or not. Who is the MPAA protecting?
Hirsch’s film examines the cases of a half-dozen different kids around the country. And, while the right-wing crowd undoubtedly expects the kind of bullying that leads to teen suicide to be a product of the godless urban environment of the East and West Coasts, Hirsch’s camera takes viewers to such urban hubs as Sioux City, Iowa, and Yazoo County, Miss. He films in Georgia, Oklahoma – hey, the kids in this film are mostly smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt.
The film starts on a heart-breaking note in Murray County, Ga., with the parents of a teen named Tyler Long, who hung himself at 17. As his parents note, he never came home bloodied or the victim of obvious physical violence. And yet he suffered severe enough abuse from his peers that he finally ended his own life.
Hirsch checks in regularly with an Iowa 12-year-old named Alex, whose classmates are so blasé about the kind of cruelty they visit upon him that they regularly choke and punch him on the school bus in front of Hirsch’s camera. Alex, bespectacled and gangly, protests, but to no avail.
This review continues on my website.