The most powerful documentaries are those that speak for themselves. They let their subjects do the talking and lead the film. This is, by far, Bully's greatest strength. This powerful doc. tells the story of several different families who encounter bullying in different ways. We follow a few families dealing with suicides as a result of bullying, one family whose son is dealing with bullying on an everyday basis, and one family whose daughter is in youth behavioral detention from having brought a gun onto a bus. Each story is a different, powerful facet of bullying and the journey is moving and heart breaking. At the center, however, is the main argument that not enough is being done by the adults to prevent bullying.
As stated, the film is told by it's subjects. We witness the bullying that occurs first hand, follow the subjects in their everyday lives, and see first hand the divide between the kids who are bullied and the adults who either do nothing or are unaware of the problem. Other parents deal with the loss of their child through suicide stemmed from bullying and their efforts to change the school systems and law enforcement that ignore the problem. Like any good film, and documentary for that matter, we have our heroic underdogs and our villains. In this case, our heroes are the bullied and our villains are those behind the broken system that allows bullying to continue. One woman in particular displays aptly the real problem and does so with finesse. I will say, by the end of the movie, you'll want to punch her in the face for being such a....well, I can't use that word in this review.
The tragedies in this film are supplemented by a handful of moments that really grab at you. From hearing a man who lost his son use politics as an example to a confrontation in the aforementioned woman's office, the film has a good arc about it. We root for change to happen and for these kids lives to improve, for there to be hope, and there is. Even though the tragedies are rough and even a bit tough to watch at times, we are rewarded with the hope of better days and an improvement. As someone who was a victim of bullying and has known many others to also be victims of bullying, it's refreshing to see that people are standing up all over the world and attempting to do something about it. To say that this film is important is just touching on what it means for this doc to be made.
That isn't to say the film is perfect. Far from it, there's a lot that could have been done. First, the film isn't especially well rounded. We don't get the opposite point of view. Having some of the bullies interviewed would have been a bit interesting I think. It would have also been nice to see some bullies and bullied as adults and what they think. The film also doesn't really look at anything beyond the immediate situation. We don't get any statistical data about bullies or a big variation on the kinds of bullying that occurs. We are simply presented with a few not so unique victims. Perhaps it was simply the filmmakers intention to show us a broken system and those trying to change it, but I would have preferred more variety, however, in the presentation of this problem.
Beyond this, the film is truly great. I can't stress the importance enough of this documentary. With all that goes on in this country these days, it's easy to overlook how important this matter is and how vital it is for the adults involved to put an end to bullying. Especially powerful are the numerous stories of child suicides which reinforce the importance of the issue. I'd even go so far as to say this documentary should be mandated watching for schools. If you have children, find a way for them to see this film. It is one of the most important films of our time.