Director: Amy S. Weber
Writer: Amy S. Weber
Stars: Lexi Ainsworth, Hunter King, Jimmy Bennett
Jessica Burns (Lexi Ainsworth) is a high school student who is lonely and isolated, clinging to her only friend Brian Slater (Jimmy Bennett), who comforts her emotionally. Jessica has been a social misfit ever since her once best friend Avery Keller (Hunter King) becomes her worst nightmare.
Opening with what looks like a “Go Pro” fisheye effect from the perspective of Jessica we see her leave her bedroom and head for the bathroom’s medical cabinet. At this point the audience knows that something pretty bad is about to happen, although we don’t yet understand why it has happened.
Following a common trait amongst young people that eventually happens with old friendships drift away, you meet new people and your opinion on things and common interests change, Jessica and Avery are very much in that category and unfortunately for Jessica, Avery has turned into a physically and emotionally nasty abusive ex-friend who taunts Jessica through hallway conversations, passive-aggressive altercations, and vile text messages and emails encouraging her to do the world a favour and kill herself.
One day, Jessica decides to take her advice, swallowing an entire bottle of pills and landing herself in a coma.
Amy S. Weber’s “A Girl Like Her” is s a movie that needs to be shown in around schools and colleges throughout the world. Big Statement? Well, yes it is a pretty damn big statement and not because I think this movie is the best thing since sliced Movie Reel but the important message that Weber is sending out there in regards to bullying. Weber also serves as the writer, leaves no opportunity to humanise or explore unturned A Girl Like Her’s portrayal of bullying and the effects on the victim, the effects on the bully, and the effects on the friends and family of the victim.
One of the many interesting things Weber does with this movie and it’s topic is she’ doesn’t give a one sided version of the story as it would have been easier just portraying Jessica and Brian’s side of the story whilst ignoring Avery’s.
Avery’s home life is far from perfect, with an incessant mother, a passive father, and a layabout older brother, all of which alienating her and providing her with demands and expectations she cannot fulfil and, more importantly, doesn’t want to. Avery is surrounded with sycophantic so called friends who don’t appear to have much in common with each other than the superficial bonds of new stylish clothes and competing bank accounts and as the story unravels in the movie we see just how Avery’s friends are quick enough to drop her at the first hint of a backlash regarding the news of Jessica’s well being although they were all involved in the bullying in some way. I appreciate Weber giving us the perspective of the Bully but if I’m honest I don’t think Avery’s situation justifies her actions.
Today’s bullying society isn’t just the physical trauma that he victims have to suffer and endure until something terrible gives but in todays world of the use or misuse of social media there is just a emotional and physiological aspect to bullying that has to be addressed whether or not it’s by texting or using Facebook to mentally scar (or scare) the victim. Anyway I’m going to step down from my soap box and get back to discussing the movie now.
That “Go Pro” thingy from earlier? Well what nobody but Jessica and Brian know is that they have documented records of all of Avery’s vicious bullying thanks to a pin sized camera that Jessica attaches to her blouse every day.
This footage along with many different interviews from parents, teachers and students from a documentary crew visiting the school works to examine your typical American high school. The film is shot partially using “found footage” aspect. Now I have previous reviewed movies using this technique and although it isn’t my favourite method of filming in this movie it is necessary as the victim in this case is using hidden cameras to record the events and it works well in this instance. Between found footage and traditionally filming at no point are we left confused and disorientated with the story telling as both appear to be edited seamlessly and simple and added to the fact that the actors actually come across naturally during the handheld scenes is a bonus.
Hunter King portrays Avery with believable conviction and especially with a performance so early in her career as mostly it is TV work that King has worked on. Her other portrayal of a high school bully feels meaner and colder than High School bullies I have witnessed in previous movies and is the essence of “A Girl Like Her.”
Lexi Ainsworth times as Jessica is limited to quick flashbacks and filmed form her perspective meaning we don’t get to see her interact too much other than with Brian. But to be fair from what we do see Ainsworth delivers a first class performance as a victim who is not only traumatised by the bullying but her emotions and responses are frozen to a point that she literally doesn’t know what to do for the better.
Jessica’s parents Margarete (Stephanie Cotton) and Gerard (Mark Boyd) gives us the perspective of every parents nightmare in these circumstances and nothing really hit more home than seeing their reactions to Jessica flatlining in the hospital and watching their responses to the doctors desperately trying to revive her. Seriously if this scene doesn’t affect you in anyway you must have flatlined a long time ago my friends and credit has to go to Cotton and Boyd portraying these two poor parents who are supposed to get on with life as their daughter lies in a coma.
A Girl Like You in a movie that to be fair takes a different approach to other “Bully” type films and tries its best to give you both sides of the story. On this occasion though and as interesting as it appears I personally didn’t think Avery’s side of the story justified the reasons behind her treatment to Jessica but commend the storyteller / director in taking the story this way.