Arrested and accused of numerous murders, Riley (Russ Camarda) sits across from therapist Dr. Brennan (Katherine Barron). Riley maintains his innocence, despite the victims having all seen him right before their deaths, and sharing one other similarity: they were victims of Riley’s bullying when he was younger. While Detective Mike (Michael Lovaglio) seeks answers, unsure himself on whether they caught the right man, Riley reveals his story of attempted redemption to Dr. Brennan.
Steven Sage Goldberg’s short film, Bullified, looks at a hot button issue in recent years, bullying, from the perspective of both the aged bully and those that were victimized. In addition, the argument of nature vs. nurture comes into play, as Riley questions whether he was born a bully, or learned to become one. Regardless, it is salvation he sought in reconnecting with the bullied, not to inflict more abuse. Or at least that’s his story.
And the film has more than a turn or two before it wraps up, which some may find intriguing and others may find too labored to easily accept. For myself, while I get what the film was going for, even I found the final explanation of the murders hard to swallow. I understand why, and it is a bold choice to leave the film with a solid resolution, but it didn’t entirely work for me.
Likewise, the editing of the piece had more than a few hiccups. An early sequence where we are introduced to Detective Mike, while necessary for the narrative to move forward with simultaneous developments, also felt like it was jammed in their indelicately. Other cuts between shots, for some reason or another, don’t feel quite as massaged or comfortable as they could. Part of this is compositional, and it is subtle, but it was enough for me to note it.
Overall, though, Bullified does keep you guessing; the mystery doesn’t hint at its resolution too much, and it manages to allow a message about bullying to get through to the audience in a way that isn’t preachy. Always easier to get a message in when said information is masked in entertainment; before people know they’re learning something, they’re engaged.
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