From its directorship by Dr. Aaron Alon, its powerful story line and unforgettable thirteen original numbers written and composed by Alon, its cinematography, its sound, and its talented cast of performers and singers, Thunderclap Production’s latest release, Bully (2017), is a highly-original masterpiece about bullying, depression, gender, queerness, and suicide. In the space of 58 minutes, this musical pushes viewers to see the multifaceted dynamics of bullying.
One of Bully’s numerous strengths rest on the profound silence of its lead character, Sam, a young high school student. Sam only whispers two words in the entire film. His silence recognizes the feelings of depression and isolation faced by many victims of bullying and emphasizes how much cannot be known about a person’s inner thoughts. Also important to note is that none of the characters attempt to speak for Sam.
Another strength is that Bully has no artificial conclusion or resolution, per se. All too often fictional stories act as if they must deliver justice, answer important questions, or otherwise wrap everything up. Bully mirrors reality. Bully does not provide a false conclusion or false sense of happiness. Bully recognizes that bullying is a profound, institutional problem with complicated causes, unpredictable consequences, and no quick remedies. At the same time, Bully absolutely includes happiness, explains how life gets better, and shows how many people genuinely care for Sam, including his parents, the school counselor, the coordinators of the community vigil, and even to a limited extent, one of the bullies.
Unlike most films about bullying, Bully is aimed at adults—not children or young teenagers. This allows a greater focus on the harsh dynamics of bullying as it actually occurs. Because of this, Bully gives important attention to the adults involved—reporters who bully grieving parents, parents of the bullies, school administrators, and people helping the community heal after Sam’s death, for example—and attention to real-life physical and verbal violence.
The lyrics and accompanying instruments made every song powerful, without exception. Performers across-the-board deliver emotional performances where they have clearly fully become the characters they portray. Three performances that especially stand out are Alon’s “He’s a Child” (Monica Davis and Amanda Passanate), Alon’s “Who’s Next” (M.E. Frazier, Jr.), and Alon’s “Raise Your Voice” (Tamara Siler, who has an especially beautiful and strong voice).
Bully is powerful and will leave you thinking. Please make sure it’s on your viewing list. This musical deserves wide viewership and acclaim.
I eagerly await Dr. Aaron Alon’s next film!
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda