The film, which opens nationwide on Friday, originally earned an R rating. When producers lost their appeal to rate the film PG-13, they decided to release it without any rating. NBC's Kate Snow reports.
Reporter's notebook by Kate Snow, NBC News correspondent
If you plan to see the movie “Bully,” don’t make the same mistake I did. Bring tissues. Lots.
I didn’t just shed a tear when I attended a NY screening of the film last week, I cried through most of the movie. So did my husband. So did most people in the theater.
"Bully" is one tough movie. But in my opinion it’s a movie people should see. It’s a movie people should talk about.
The opening credits are barely over when you realize the first character you’ve been introduced to is a teenage boy who has committed suicide.
In the film, his dad said, ”Some kids had told him to go hang himself – that he was worthless. And I think he got to the point where enough was enough.”
It is simply heartbreaking.
Kate Snow continues her reporting on bullying with a new examination of the Phoebe Prince case on "Dateline" Sunday.
Filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, had exceptional access to parents and regular kids going to school on regular school buses, living their regular lives. Nothing is sanitized.
“It’s a very personal film,” Hirsch told NBC News. “I was bullied when I was a kid. So it’s like that project that you carry with you in your pocket and you say ‘One day I’m gonna make this film when I have the guts and I have the courage.’”
One of the stars of the film is Alex Libby, who was 12 at the time of the filming. He is pretty courageous too.
Alex is seen being punched, poked and ridiculed on the bus.
“They push me so far that I want to become the bully,” he said in the film.
At one point during filming, Hirsch was so worried about Libby’s safety, he decided to stop shooting and give copies of his tape to the school and Libby’s parents.
When Libby’s parents confronted school officials they were essentially told not to worry.
But they were right to worry, just as so many of us parents do.
“I didn’t tell them what was going on, which was my mistake,” Alex told NBC News the other night at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie. “I should have told someone. I wish I would have told someone. But I didn’t until Lee came along.”
Alex Libby’s parents were with him on the red carpet in LA and all three attended the screening I was at in New York.
I told Alex’s dad how much he reminds me of my own young son.
Philip Libby told us the film had brought Alex out of his shell.
“Before it started he was in a deep place that we just couldn’t reach him – and Lee and the film and the whole process has just kind of brought him out of that darkness and broke him out of his shell and gave us our son back,” he said.
Indeed, Alex himself says his life is much better now, thanks to a new school in a new state. And he’s proud to be a part of a film that might help other kids.
“I’m glad I’m actually making a difference. It’s amazing. I mean, I was always the shy kid, back when I was in middle school. I would never thought I’d be this kid who’s out there trying to change something. But breaking from my shell has been an awesome experience. I realized how awesome I am,” he said.
Now that … that makes me smile.