Eye For Film >> Movies >> Bullies (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
"I don't want to go to school today," says Eugene (Kaden Hetherington) in the car, producing a sudden cough and saying he feels ill. His mother isn't fooled but she's perplexed. Many viewers will not be.
We're often told that schooldays are the best days of our lives (which always seems like something of a tragedy even if it's true). Eugene's mother probably remembers happy times with friends when she was always learning exciting new things. For Eugene, lessons are neither here nor there - what stands out about school is that it's a place where he's routinely excluded, mocked and beaten. There seems to be no escape. And then one day he opens a forbidden door, falls down a hole, and discovers a secret. Here is something that might keep him safe - but is it worth the price?
Dealing with themes of shyness, fearfulness and growing up, Bullies sees its young hero struggle to find the right balance between his desire for safety and his love of life - or, at least, of what life can offer him when the bullies don't get in the way. it's aimed squarely at younger viewers but is sufficiently well made for parents to enjoy it too. At times it might seem a little bit twee - too sugary in an almost literal way - to get past the cynicism found in modern viewers even when they're very young. For the most part, however, it acquits itself well, and there are moments of genuine pathos when we are invited to consider the cost of withdrawal from the world.
Hetherington makes a likeable lead and is one of those actors who can keep viewers onside even when displaying the kind of pathetic, submissive behaviour that's a magnet for bullies. We can see why Eugene is loathed but we also see something of what he could be if given half a chance. Cinematographers Carole McClintock and Matt Wise give the film a warm glow and the attractive production design by Katie Cape and Traci Hays, which draws on comic books and classic children's stories, will keep young viewers intrigued. Fantasy though it may be, it's a film that effectively grasps the way that being bullied feels and invites victims to refocus on the good things in life.Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2019