A Girl Like Her is written and directed by Amy S. Weber as a drama, but is meant to be a step-by-step account of a bullying case in a high school. It is eerily realistic, and I had to keep reminding myself the characters were actually actors playing roles. I understand Weber based it on her own experience and on that of students she has talked with who have been bullies and victims, all of which explains why it rings so true. It represents an extremely moving account of how bullying can get out of hand. Wisely, Weber includes a picture of the bully’s family that illustrates so well how a child from that kind of home can initiate something like bullying. That is, the mother (Engle) especially, uses projection as a primary defense, and bullies her husband and kids constantly.
Jessica Burns (Ainsworth) is a rather shy student with a really good friend, Brian (Bennett), who tries to get her to report the bullying she’s getting from a childhood friend who has recently turned against her. She is unclear about why Avery (King) has changed toward her, and refuses to confide in anyone else but Brian. Exasperated, Brian wants to document the bullying and purchases a tiny camera that Jessica can wear like a pin or necklace. She is terrified about what Avery would do if she finds out about it, but Brian insists that she at least think about it. Ultimately, she does wear it, and over the next six months has recorded everything.
She apparently gets so used to the camera that she forgets it’s on, and when she purposefully takes an overdose of Hydrocodone, that’s recorded as well. Then, Weber shifts back and forth among scenes at school, the recording, and Jessica’s and Avery’s families. As an added prop, she plays the part of a news reporter documenting life at the school after it’s just been ranked one of the top schools in the country, and talks Avery into being a special feature since she’s the most popular student. Avery is flattered and eagerly agrees to do it.
To Weber’s credit, by the end of the film, we feel almost as much empathy for the bully as we do the victim; thus the girl referred to in the title could be Jessica or Avery. Although it’s hard to watch, I think it might be very helpful for high school students to see it and discuss it. Sometimes the bullying scenes extend too long, but Weber is intent on getting her points across.
Good perspective on both victim and bully.
Grade: B+ By Donna R. Copeland