Once upon a time there was a high school student who had a secret. Not even their best friend knew the depth of the secret. On the surface everything looked normal, just an average pupil carrying their books from class to class. As the weeks and months passed no one noticed the grasping of the books became tighter. Walking through the school’s hallways was turning into a challenge; sometimes they were lucky to only be part of the audience, but other times they were the main event. They soon forgot that their shoulders were not born up by their ears, tensed into hardness. Their eyes stopped looking straight ahead, avoiding contact with anyone’s eyes, as the air around them turned less porous. Throughout the school there were places that were off limits because the memories associated with them were painful. The student who had a good memory oddly could not remember the details inside those memories. All they recalled were the feelings of pain and humiliation. If there were others around who noticed they never came forward to help. Out of the four years of high school there was one year that was planned as their last. That particular year they stayed more inside of their head because it was the safest place for them. Whether it was due to fate, luck or happenstance; they eventually found their way out. They were one of the fortunate ones. ONCE such good friends Jessica, played by Lexi Ainsworth (So This is Christmas, Wild Child), had no idea what she did that caused Avery, played by Hunter King (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Young and the Restless-TV), to treat her so badly. It finally came to a point where Jessica’s best friend Brian, played by Jimmy Bennett (Orphan, Star Trek), came up with a plan he felt could help Jessica out of her situation; she was hesitant to do it. This drama was filmed more like a documentary; that is how real it felt to me. What helped was the use of the found footage technique, though it did not have the shakiness issue that I have found annoying in the past. Several times I had to keep reminding myself the students were actually actors because they were so convincing. In regards to the script, I found it overall to be good; however, there were times where I felt the scenes were purposely pushed with a heavy hand to force a reaction from the audience. In other words, emotions and events lacked subtlety. I did not consider this a major fault since I teared up several times throughout the film. Depending on one’s memories or experiences, do not be surpirsed if you see a lot of people with wet eyes in the theater.
It is such a downer when reality interferes with fantasy. The same can be said when innocence gets lost in reality. What struck a chord in me was the pure innocence in Timothy Green, played by CJ Adams (Dan in Real Life). The pleasure Timothy took in the things around him, while others made fun of him for being different, brought back uncomfortable memories for me. I did not expect this fanciful film to gently broach the topic of bullying. Timothy came into the lives of Cindy and Jim Green, played by Jennifer Garner (Juno, Daredevil) and Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Thing), just when their dream to be parents was meeting the reality that it wasn’t meant to be. Not only was Timothy everything they had wished for, he was something much more. For a Disney movie, I was expecting an extra spoonful of sugar to sweeten the story. But, what was a pleasant surprise was the matter of fact way they dealt with the topics of family and adoption. The acting was even throughout the movie; I thought the casting of CJ Adams was a very good choice. My disappointment came in the unsurprising script. It was easy to see where each scene was meant to take us. Where it was fortunate that this was a Disney movie was also a disadvantage. The sweetness factor was pushed to an excess, as if the audience was expected to ooh and ahh at certain scenes. All in all, this was a family friendly film with a good heart to it. You just might have to take a shot of insulin to handle the added sugar, though.
2 1/2 stars
This was the hardest review I have written since I started posting my movie reviews. The reason being it was more personal for me. I knew viewing this film was going to be hard because I could easily relate to the topic. Back in school I was bullied. Besides being called a variety of names, I was stabbed with the sharp end of a compass, pushed down the stairs, punched and spat on. My family knew nothing about it for I instead found comfort in food. My ears could hear the tinkling of the ice cream truck chimes blocks away, where I always orderd a large soft serve chocoate ice cream cone. By the time I walked home there was no evidence of my snacking. Once home I would eat slices of bread, stuffing my feelings further; sometimes up to 1/2 a loaf or more. So sitting in the theater seeing what type of abuse these brave individuals were enduring was hard for me. The movie was layed out in a thoughtful and sensitive way; I was surprised the cameras had as much access as it appeared. What I found curious were the cities and towns that were chosen for this documentary. I believe the largest popuated place was Sioux City, Iowa. The other locations were small rural areas; where I felt one could possibly interpret bullying as being a small town problem. It certainly is not. I want to commend the families that lost a child to suicide, for agreeing to tell their heartbreaking stories. In my opinion I think this movie was a good start and hope people will take the opportunity to go see it. I only wish the filmmakers would have gone further with the topic. We saw individual stories; but I wanted to see more of the reasons behind these deplorable actions. More importantly, I wished they would have filmed more examples of what was being done to prevent them.
2 3/4 stars