There are two major influences in most people’s lives: Their family, and their friends. Oftentimes, we see a happy, healthy family as a sign that a person is stable and kind. In my character analysis of Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort, I proposed that he may have still be evil even if his family life had been perfect, as a side effect of his psychopathy, or antisocial personality disorder. If anyone proves this theory correct, it’s Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl). Based on the true-crime novel by Jim Schutze, Bully is the story of a monster who has no reason to be one, who is cruel and violent simply because he can be.
Bobby and Marty (Brad Renfro) are best friends and have been their entire lives, but for the majority of that time, Bobby has emotionally and physically abusing Marty, isolating them from their peers, gaslighting him, belittling him, and training him to take more and more abuse, similar to how predators treat small children or domestic partners. As they get older and Marty develops a drug habit as a direct result of years of abuse at the hands of his now only friend, Bobby exploits this to abuse and humiliate Marty even further. When Marty gets a girlfriend, Bobby’s maliciousness knows no limits and she is pulled into the toxic web of abuse as well.
Marty, his girlfriend, Lisa (Rachel Miner), and even her best friend, Ali (Bijou Phillips), are all collateral damage in Bobby’s reign of terror. Meanwhile, Bobby, who is living the quintessential double life, is the son of proud parents, a doting older brother to his sister, and a model student. No one would ever expect that the best friend with whom he spend the bulk of his time experiences a side of him which has induced a lifetime of rage and fear.
Bully is an amazing exposé on the dynamics of abuse within peer groups, within friend circles, and even among “best friends”. As we see this horrifying display of toxicity and peer pressure play out to a startling conclusion, Bully reminds us abusers come in all ages, and cruelty doesn’t have to have a rhyme or reason.
I give this one 4 stars.