“Bully” Movie Review – Wow!

By Paul Langhorst  April 12, 2012

SchoolReach was extended a special invitation to attend the press screening of “Bully,” which opens here in St. Louis on Friday at Plaza Frontenac, Ronnies and select AMC theaters.¬† We were able to expand the invitation and eventually ended up bringing about 30 customers, partners and special guests to a reception and the screening.

It was a very moving and emotional night. The fun and excitement of mingling with our customers and friends before the movie was offset by the stark reality and pain presented by Bully.

The movie follows the lives of 5 teens and their families who are victims of bullying. Including the families as “victims” was not a typo. It is clear in these cases that the families are also victims of bullying; their lives are completely consumed by the consequences of bullying whether in the tragic aftermath of two suicides or the daily ritual of dealing with a child who comes home tormented, torn and disrupted from being bullied, harassed or intimidated.

It was hard for me to believe that any school administrator would allow filming to take place on their campus and buses, especially when that school was doing such a horrible job of preventing or responding to bullying reports. In an interview on KMOX, a top AM station here in St. Louis, director Lee Hirsch said they sent letters to hundreds of schools seeking volunteers to allow such a movie to be filmed. While I am surprised it was allowed, I am glad that such access was granted, because Bully would not have been the same without it.

The on-campus and on-bus settings made the movie life-like and exposed the environment in which bullying takes place. I imagine that many parents never really see the inside of a school when its in session and Bully gives the viewer a sense of what its like to be “in the trenches” with the bully, the bullied and the bystanders as these situations take place.

One of our guests, Paul Fennewald, who is the director of the Missouri Center for Education Safety, had this to say:

“‘Bully’ is a powerful movie that lays bare the effects of bullying on victims, families and communities. Anyone that is in K-12 education, administration or involved with counseling and safety efforts at schools, would benefit greatly from seeing this movie.”

-Paul Fennewald, Director

Missouri Center for Education Safety

Alex, one on the bully victims and the one most documented, is tormented daily because of his awkward looks, which stem from a premature birth at 26 weeks. Alex is a survivor. To survive birth at 26 weeks and to be healthy and high functioning is a testament to the love and care he received from his family. Yet, while his family brought him into this world and nursed him from a 1-pound baby to adolescence, they seem helpless against the bullying that Alex endures on a daily basis with their pleas for help to the school officials seeming to go unheeded. Ultimately, the school begins to take action, but apparently not because of Alex’s parent requests, but due to the evidence compiled by the filmmakers. Alex is probably somewhat of a celebrity now and I hope is more-than-15-minutes of fame prevents further bullying and that he continues to survive and grow into successful and productive adulthood.

The other amazing point, was the portrayal of the transformation in the lives of the parents of children who committed suicide. These parents did not shrink and collapse from the pain and suffering from the loss of a child, they became stout and resolute to make a difference. I’m not sure I could do the same, but hope and pray that I am never put to such a test. Starting organizations to bring awareness to bullying they became marketers, organizers, public speakers, and lobbyists so that their children did not die in vain and that their memory would live on. As the father of one child said, he was doing this because his son “will be forever 11 years old.”

I encourage anyone who is involved in education to go see Bully. Take your class to it as a field trip if at all possible. Its message to bystanders that they have the power to stop bullying should not be lost.