Reviewing: A Girl Like Her

brian_gives_jess_pin
Brian gives Jessica a spy camera hidden in a dragonfly pin.

Where many movies about high school drama, bullying and mean girls fail, this one prevails.

A Girl Like Her, available to view on Netflix, is the story of about realities. The film combines documentary style, Go-Pro and hidden camera techniques to tell the story of Jessica, a high school teenager who is the unfortunate target of the brutal and relentless bullying from her former friend, Avery. Avery is the quintessential “mean girl,” she’s beautiful, popular and intimidating. Her group of friends follow her lead in true girl-on-girl-hate style, which often includes egging on Avery’s bullying.

In seeing the effects of Avery’s abuse, Jessica’s friend Brian decides to act. He convinces Jessica to wear a hidden camera in a broach in order to document the true extent of Avery’s behavior. Through the camera, we see Avery berating Jessica for everything from her clothes to simply existing. We see Jessica receive emails and text messages telling her to kill herself. We see Avery beating up Jessica.

Eventually, the abuse becomes too much and Jessica attempts suicide.

It’s very hard to talk about this movie without spoiling it, but I will try my best.

When I first watched this movie, I didn’t expect it to be as immersive as it was. The story begins from the point of view of documentarians arriving at the school to film a story about how successful schools operate. Hearing of Avery’s popularity, they employ her to vlog about her high school experience. We later meet Jessica and Brian who are seem to be simply surviving high school together. But the truth of the abuse is soon revealed.

The use of the hidden camera in this film was, in a word, genius. I thought it was a fantastic way to show the ferocity of Avery when she is interacting with Jessica and it becomes even more powerful when Jessica attempts suicide.

This style of filming is also useful in showing the different ways people act around certain people — how they switch to different sectors of their personalities in mere seconds. This in itself speaks to the high level of acting present in the film. Both Hunter King (Avery) and Lexi Ainsworth (Jessica) delivered such visceral and wrenching performances that it is extremely easy to believe this is simply a documentary and not a scripted film. King’s performance was, hands-down, one of the best performances I have seen, despite the content making me hate her character so much.

I think the most important thing about this film is it’s message.

The film’s website states that the movie is based on a million true stories about bullying. Bullying and abuse at the hands of fellow classmates is nothing new, but it seems to be much more of a problem now than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Or maybe it’s because more of us are noticing and trying to do something about it.

I was definitely picked on in school, I was never bullied like this. And if it was happening at my school, I didn’t really see it. So, I was relatively removed from situations like this, but anti-bullying became a very important cause to me. I just couldn’t understand what would cause someone to behave in such a way, to take out their problems on an innocent bystander, to tell someone to go kill themselves. It’s awful to hear these stories and I really don’t understand what causes people, especially teenagers, to be filled with so much rage that they think it’s okay to behave that way to others rather than dealing with their problems in ways that could change things for the better.

This movie is so important for young people to see because not only does it show the extreme effects that bullying has on its victims, but it also points to specific behaviors that are undoubtedly present in all schools across the United States. The hope is that bullies like Avery will realize that behaving this way is not acceptable by both the school and, hopefully, themselves. I don’t know if the movie would have the intended effect, as teenagers tend to think their actions are correct regardless, but I really hope that it does reach its intended goal. I think this film should be shown in all middle and high schools across the United States, because even if it doesn’t shock bullies into recognizing their destructive habits, hopefully it will inspire the majority of students to rally against bullying in their schools.

Underlying the obvious, there is another message that really struck a cord with me in this film: the effects of teenage suicide. As a person who has been in this situation before, I can say that thoughts of how your family deals with your suicide never cross your mind. The film shows heart-wrenching scenes of Jessica’s family trying to process the reality of Jessica’s intentions and resulting coma. We see them trying to understand exactly why this happened, what they could have done differently. We see them attempting to assure themselves that everything will be okay, even when the reality is at its darkest.

According to The Jason Foundation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24. How many of these could be the result of bullying? This is not okay.

I would hope that this movie would touch a young person who feels hopeless and is considering ending it all. I would hope that this film would show them that there are people who care an awful lot about them and if they were gone, their whole world would shatter into nothing. I would hope it would change their mind. I think it would have changed mine at that time.

A Girl Like Her is an immersive, intense, heart-wrenching and powerful film that, in my mind, is required viewing for parents and anyone who works with young adults, teenagers and college-age kids. Just make sure you have some tissues handy.

What did you think of A Girl Like Her? Do you think bullying is a problem in our schools? What more can we do to curb both physical and cyber bulling? How can we stop girl-on-girl hate? Let’s talk.

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