Bullies is a short film by writer-director Daniel Bydlowski (“Ay Love”, “Me First”) and co-writer Benjamin Abbott (“Friendly Soviet Puppet Show”, “Me First”) based on Bydlowski’s personal yet universal experience.
We follow Eugene, Kaden Hetherington (“Happy Endings”, “Sean Saves the World”), a shy middle-schooler desperately trying to avoid the two bullies who have made him their target.
Craig, Conrad Bluth (“A Lot Like Love”, “Camp”) especially likes to taunt him both physically and verbally, and running away from him and his friends has become a daily occurrence for Eugene.
Until, one day, unexpectedly, Eugene finds a literal safe place: a small home in the school’s underground ran by four bullying victims, now grown men who have never left the hiding place for fear of running into their bullies again.
Obviously, I doubt that Bydlowski nor any of us have literally experienced finding a secret hiding place under the school’s ground, yet we felt that appeal all the same: who hasn’t dreamed of staying in bed and never confronting what scares us?
This is exactly what Bullies is all about: the never-ending fight within ourselves between wanting to be and feel safe and wanting to go out into the world. Eugene experiences it quite literally as he starts to live with his new friends but soon realizes that this hidden life isn’t quite as fun as he had imagined it.
Eugene’s stay with George, Weston Nathanson (“Serenity”, “Good Behavior”), Alfred, Fred Ornstein (“So I Married an Axe Murderer”, “Gang Related”), Tommy, Stephen Holland (“Feud”, “The Mick”) and Harry, Michael Edwin (“True Detective”, “Ray Donovan”) is the best part of the film as it balances both fun childishness with a real emotional core, especially as Alfred starts to confess in Eugene the sacrifices he had to make for what ended up being a disappointing life.
Bullies also manages to de-dramatize bullies in general while never underestimates the harm they cause. The grown men’s talk and fear of bullies as if they were monstrous predators help to rationalize that very fear: Eugene’s bullies, as most children’s, are no more than typical teenage boys after all – and it is that newfound knowledge and self-confidence that helps him overcome his fears.
Bullies is therefore a great, important film for both children and adults to always remember that running away from a problem is never the solution – and that, conveniently, nothing is as impossible to overcome as we think.