Denise Francis writes and directs My Life as a Bully, a 40-minute educational drama aimed at children between seven and thirteen. Part drama, part mockumentary, the Firehorse Film production explores the bullying going on in a fictional Welsh secondary school. Booker is just one of the many kids in her school getting harassed by Bulldog, but things start to change when she’s given a book about bullying by her librarian.
Bullying is, of course, no laughing matter, so the decision to tackle such a sensitive subject with humour is a brave one. Fortunately, the film manages to pull it off. Relying on wit rather than light entertainment, the script offers moments that have tongue firmly in cheek without trivialising the issue itself. The comedy works best when it comes organically – certain sequences feel far too contrived but, arguably, they may be perfectly fine for the target audience.
But it’s in its more serious moments that My Life as a Bully really excels. Hannah Compton gives a powerful performance as Hannah, Bulldog’s chief victim. There’s melancholy in her portrayal of the helpless pupil, and the viewer is genuinely rooting for her to break free. She gets solid support from Kate Spencer (as Booker) and Paul Britton (as Bulldog) but, as good as all three performances are, it’s very obvious that these are adults playing children. The film would arguably be more impactful with actors at the right ages, but the leads are nonetheless a solid cast.
But, ultimately, the message of the film is what stands out. Bullying is an issue that we have all been affected by (many of us directly), so Firehorse need to be commended for its efforts to raise awareness. Sequences in the film are very relatable, and it’s hard not to be moved by them. There may be flaws in the film’s narrative and creative decisions, but what My Life is a Bully is trying to achieve cannot be doubted. It’s an important film, and a well-made one at that.