Movies are often the art form for the masses as it seems to be easily accessible and enjoyed by many. With the long audience reach of a good film it’s important to understand how this can be a platform to discuss the human experience. A Girl Like Her is a documentary styled fiction film that wishes to open a discussion on the taboo subject of teen suicide. The film features an insecure girl named Jessica Burns. Jessica, becoming emotional distressed by constant harassment decides to swallow a bunch of pills plunging her into a catatonic state. When a film crew comes to the school they become swept up in recording the events of the school’s response to the recent suicide. With the production crew investigating and the smoking gun of a hidden camera do we truly learn about A Girl Like Her.
The Technical Side of Things: Camera Hot Potato
To start things off let’s go into the film-making aspect of how the film holds up production wise. The most noticeable thing being the three-different camera used and the effect they give. The opening scene as well as other intermittent scenes was filmed with a fish-eyed lens camera. This most likely was a go-pro or cheaper camera that is easily distinguishable by the radial distortion of the domed lens so that walls or other straight objects will appeared curved. The second is the mainly used small production cameras, and a hand-held camera that is low quality that is discernible by the lower resolution. However, the cameras are used to tell the story. The fished eyed lens are to tell that it’s from the dragonfly spy camera, the small hand-held was given to Avery in order for her to portray her perspective and the higher cameras are introduced to be this production company that original was doing a promotional on the school but then got completely derailed by the suicide gossip. For the cinematography, the vast majority looks like a university advertising video, maybe something they would play at orientation with the slow pans of school locations and student interviews. Overall the film is void of any fancy editing to not disrupt the natural feel of all the footage. The screenplay is very well-done, it fully recognizes the sincerity of the topic and presents it in a way that displays a lot of reality while avoiding melodramatic or cheesy moments.
Is This Better Than Recent Hit 13 Reasons Why
Love it or hate it I think the recent Netflix Original Series 13 Reasons Why has been the most popular and highest source of putting the issue of suicide into the cultural zeitgeist. I honestly would recommend both of these as I do think they’re both alright but in contrasting the two do I hope to send you in the right direction of which one better works for you. The best compliment to A Girl Like Her is its authenticity, the emotion and intent of the film are trying to give an honest portrayal, that of reality and challenge its audience to recognize its existence in the world. 13 Reasons Why is for entertainment, the series holds a mystery element and a cast of intriguing but non-realistic characters and events that will create interesting dynamics. A Girl Like Her has the goal to place the film in school in hopes that it can hold an educational purpose in approving the situation nationwide. 13 Reasons Why, has the goal to make money, and sell Beats by Dre. 13 Reasons Why is technically pleasing with great editing and cinematography. A Girl Like Her is bland footage in a cheaper documentary style. A Girl Like Her requires a bit of patience unless you become heavily invested in it, but ultimately is worth it for the good-natured story and attempt to shed light on the hazardous effects of bullying. 13 Reasons Why is great entertainment that allows you to formulate your own thoughts on the topics of suicide and bullying. At the end of the day, both work towards increasing human empathy and are well done. Hopefully this section was able to clear up how the two take a different approach and you have an easier time identifying which presentation is for you.
The Double-Edged Sword
What impressed me the most about this story was its ability to successfully craft both sides of the problem. While I don’t necessarily agree with the one factor of a single bully being the reasoning behind committing suicide it’s how this story displays it. The film attempts to not only spotlight the pain of the victim but rather chooses to focus upon the bully in this situation. The film tightropes the possibility of making the bully sympathetic which would be possible if she wasn’t so extremely horrid but does eventually display her as human. The message of the film is how fragile humans can be and how we have to be more aware of who we are and who others are to construct something proactive to combat all the negativity. The film balances all of the perspectives nicely with all parties getting a fair representation in reflecting upon the issues. The Parties include: facility, the victim’s best friend, the bully’s friends, bystanders, and both sets of parents. I applaud the film for the fact that it would have been so easy to play into character types and while they do, they don’t draw them out fully to the point where everyone becomes a laughable caricature. All actors and actresses involved put on a good performance and that grows the characters and validates the authenticity of the film. The film’s director, Amy Weber, was interviewed by Indie Outlook in which took to comment on the duality of the narrative in A Girl Like Her.
“The film’s story is an unpopular one because it asks people to have compassion for an abuser. It’s one of the hardest things that we ask our society to accept—that this behavior is the result of pain…The victim needs our help and healing as does the bully…We have a mantra that we live by: the only way to save a victim is to heal a bully”
I found Weber’s philosophy insightful and mature that gives the film a nice approach to the whole issue.
Is the bullying realistic?
Maybe this is just me but I find it hilarious when media misrepresents bullying. If done wrong it can come across silly for no one is going to be so personally offended by being called such an un-colorful insult as “stupid” or “you suck”. I think the film is portrayed in a well enough manner. The harassment is varied, constant, at times personal and even results in some small physical confrontations. It’s made very clear how the character got to such a low place and I do think it all makes sense. I was wondering on whether it was a little too much in the end. I tend to be a little oblivious to the world but I don’t think another this bad happened at my high school. If anyone has seen the film and doesn’t mind sharing is bullying to the full extent of this film to the point of daily email spams to physical pushing and shoving something that you know exists. I’m not completely oblivious I’m aware that extreme bullying/harassment exists I’m just wondering if this is less extreme/more common than I personally imagine it to be.
At the end of the day suicide is a very serious topic that I’m sure you don’t need a person who talks about movies on the internet to tell you that. I support this film and the positive message and benefits it’s trying to put out there in its campaign to better discuss the topic of suicide and bullying. If you want to know more about the film, the films official website holds interview and reviews as well as media on the campaign to get high schoolers to view the film as well as a long list of resources for Suicide Prevention and Anti-bullying which I will leave a link at the bottom. A Girl Like Her tries to use film to produce a resounding, powerful message that should be seen if your comfortable with the material, I suggest to give it a chance.
Images used are from the film A Girl Like Here [Credit: Radish Creative Group, Bottom Line Entertainment, Parkside Pictures]