IT IS a moment of incredulity when a Sioux City principal tells a student who has emerged from a physical fight with a bully, to "just get over it."
If he puts the problems behind him she is sure they could be friends.
And when the parents of a bullied Alex are in her office on the verge of tears after discovering their son's bus ride to school is accompanied by regular strangling, death threats and abuse; she simply responds: "I've been on that bus, they're as good as gold."
They say school days are the best days of your life. Really?
For the kids that are the focus of Lee Hirsch's hauntingly heart-breaking documentary this couldn't be further from the truth.
For them a ride on the school bus is rehearsal for hell.
Verbal, physical and emotional abuse is hurled with the intensity and efficiency of machine-gun fire. And the effects are just as deadly.
With an unapologetic gravity, Hirsh's documentary follows the stories of five of the 13 million US school children who find themselves the brunt of physical, psychological, sexual and racial abuse each year and presents the damming evidence on an epidemic that appears to be out of control.
It is an intimate unflinching and highly emotional look into an area of society that shouldn't exist but is a reality for so many children and teenagers.
Hirsh's film is a confronting tale were torment and anguish are laid bare, where pain is raw and emotions intense and heart-breaking.
Fly-on-the wall footage shows 12-year old Alex Libby, a goofy gangly boy who struggles to interact and make friends, get brutally punched, poked, threatened during his daily bus rides.
Meanwhile the bus driver does nothing. Teachers make excuses. Kids will be kids.
One victim takes action against her tormentors and finds herself in juvenile detention. It's sobering stuff.
The only thing missing is any form of comment from the bullies themselves which could have made this film a little more rounded and this oversight leaves a slightly unsatisfactory ending to such an important film.
Insightful and heartbreaking, confrontational and conversation starting, Bully should be essential viewing for all school students and their parents alike.
- Stars: Alex, Ja'Maya, Kelby
- Director: Lee Hirsch
- Rated: M
- Verdict: Three out of four stars