Some movies use make-believe to make you squirm or cry or rise to righteous anger. Bully does all of that with reality.
Documentarian Lee Hirsch peers into one of the most horrifying things you’ll ever see — the lives of bullied young teens — and wrings and terrifies and outrages you impressively.
Bully focuses on five or children around the United States who have been abused by schoolmates, two so relentlessly that they committed suicide. The film speaks to the impact of bullying and, more terribly, actually depicts the abuse and — worse — the ineffective responses of scholastic and legal authorities, who sometimes exacerbate the troubles.
You sense that some corners have been shaved in Bully, but that doesn’t lessen the film’s impact or import. Watching two fathers mourn their sons, who took their own lives, is utterly gut-wrenching, and you want to reach out and help any child headed toward such a dire decision.
Bully was initially rated R for profanities that, frankly, I can’t recall hearing. But it’s been edited and re-rated PG-13 for its DVD release, meaning that those who most need to learn from it — victims of bullying and, yes, their tormentors — will get to see it. I think it could be argued that it ought to be mandatory.