Review: Bully

— by ADAM DALE —

“Bully,” the new documentary film by award-winning director Lee Hirsh, has had as much publicity over the controversy of the MPAA’s rating the film “R” as it has because of the touching and emotional stories it shows. The Weinstein Company has announced its choice to forgo the MPAA rating system and release “Bully” unrated and now it’s time for everyone to see the film.

“Bully” is about America today and the crisis children in our schools face that can have widespread and devastating effects on not just kids but everyone around them. Following the plight of just five of the estimated 13 million U.S. students who are bullied or harassed each year by their classmates due to race, gender, sexual orientation and/or physical appearance, “Bully” is a devastating look into the daily lives of these kids over the period of a school year.

The film opens on the tears of a father who lost his son to suicide due to the unrelenting torture of daily life at school. It goes on to chronicle the journey of four other young students: a 12 year-old boy who is constantly teased, threatened and physically abused on the school bus and at school; a 14 year-old girl who pulled her mother’s handgun on her harassers and is in a juvenile detention facility; a 16 year-old lesbian whose family is considering moving out of town to escape her persecution — some of which comes directly from her teachers; and a young man who took his life and now his family is at the head of a movement to raise social awareness and advocate change in our schools and judicial systems.

I can see the MPAA’s choice to give the film an “R” rating because of a scene where a tormentor drops multiple F-Bombs on his victim, but the message behind the film and the lessons to be learned from it far outweigh the foul language of a single scene. Yes, there are a multitude of other slang, curse words and explicit forms of name calling including, but not limited to, specific threats of bodily harm in graphic detail, racial and hateful slurs associated with sexual orientation and every other derogatory term kids can think up. But should the antiquated rating system have exceptions for films that offer more than pure entertainment and are educational in nature? I believe they should, especially since the plan was originally to show the films in schools to students and now teenagers under the age of 17 are required to have a parent present or, in the case of AMC theaters, download and bring a signed permission slip to see this film without parental supervision.

This film is shocking and horrifying to watch as elected government and school officials dismiss cases brought to their attention by parents and students and disregard multiple attempts by parents to try to keep their kids safe from the persecution of others. In one outrageous instance, a vice principal makes a victim apologize to his tormentor after he complained about being bullied.

“Bully” brings up a lot of emotional topics and it is heart-wrenching to watch parents feeling helpless to save their kids from this life, and while some no longer have the chance to protect their child, they have all taken affirmative action in a “call to arms” to stop these travesties from happening again to other children. Inspiring hope for change in the future, they take their loss and sorrow and have turned it into a campaign that will sweep the nation as we cry out “No Longer!” To quote Dorothy Height, an American administrator, educator and social activist who won the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004, “We’ve got to work to save our children and do it with full respect for the fact that if we do not, no one else is going to do it.”

This film is hard to watch, but worth every enraging moment onscreen and if it could save a single life or prevent a future bully from happening, I’m sure the filmmakers, families and everyone would be happy.

“Bully” opens in theaters March 30. For more information about the film, check out their website at

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2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Great review. I definitely want to see this now. I was unsure at first only because the content is difficult, but seems it has a strong message that’s long overdue to be shared.

  2. Geraldine #

    Spot on! Keep up the good the work Adam.