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By Rich and Ann Bates

Bully movie signOur column, formerly called “He Said, She Said,” was not working for us; it started in the usual way with us talking about those movies we had seen, discussing and disagreeing about what we were seeing. But we have found that just not to be the case, nor are we professional film critics writing on a regular basis for The Town Crier, so now we just call this a discussion, with a change in the title. Welcome to “New at the Movies”!

We have two powerful films to share this month, both dealing with young children who are forced to grow up way too soon.

The first is the documentary Bully (directed by Lee Hirsch) with a running time of one hour and 34 minutes and rated PG-13.

The film deals with the stories of five families. Two of these families have lost children to suicide as a result of bullying, and one mother is awaiting the fate of her 14-year-old daughter who is in jail for bringing a gun on a school bus. It is obvious that the makers of this documentary made the film in the hope of bringing about change in how we view bullying as parents, students, schools and society.

The stories are not told with charts and graphs, but through intimate, individual events. The PG-13 rating was hard fought because of the language, which is at its most brutal in a scene on a school bus. It would be important for families with young(er) children to discuss the “real-life” persons and situations shown in this documentary.

When the film looks at bullying, it does not always look at it as the stereotypical physical brutality that is most commonly represented in the news. Rather the approach is also emotional, verbal, and psychological. Yes, the physical scars are always present, but this film digs deep to show the invisible scars of bullying.

To quote Rex Reed of The New York Observer, this is a “powerful, vital and brave must-see movie.” We could not agree more. Bully is currently showing at the El Con and Foothills Theaters.

The Kid on a Bike movie posterThe next film also deals with a young person at risk, a boy who has been abandoned by his father and is left in the care of a state orphanage. The film is from Belgium and is titled The Kid with a Bike (directed by Jean Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne). It was nominated for Best Foreign Film of this year and runs 89 minutes, rated PG-13.

Struggling with abandonment issues, the young boy, Cyril (Thomas Doret), is frantic to get his bike, the bike his dad sold to pay for his move to another city. This is not an Oliver Twist-type story of an orphanage, but a real-life story of a boy’s psychological struggles with abandonment and his gradual re-entry into life with the town’s hairdresser, Samantha (Cecile De France). She places him in a strict regimen of daily living and getting him to be accountable for his actions.

There are many realistic turns of events, experiencing emotions, having compassion, being sad and having a short relationship with the town’s dealer/drug pusher. A most touching moment comes when Cyril runs away to see his father, Guy Catoul (Jeremie Renier), only to be turned away again and again. Cyril begins to accept that his father never wants to see him again.

The acting in this film is truly remarkable, and the young actor, Thomas Doret, is one of those young actors that we hope to see grow up before our eyes. It’s the kind of film that sticks with you the day after. The Kid with a Bike is currently showing at The Loft Cinema.