Commendable intentions fall short in “Bullying,” a no-frills social-issue item that keeps its feet on the ground and dignity intact before losing its footing in the final reel. Centered on the conflict between a high school bully and his hapless victim, the somewhat plodding pic is short on psychological nuance and excitement but is partly redeemed by a quietly tortured perf from first-timer Albert Carbo and a refreshingly uncompromising tone. Home B.O. was discreet on release late October, but screenings at socially themed fest sidebars look possible.
Jordi (Carbo) and his mother, Julia (Laura Conejero), arrive in a new town, and soon sensitive, gentle Jordi becomes the victim of smiling teen tyrant Nacho (Joan Carles Suau) and his gang. Plot traverses an increasingly intense array of physical and social torture. Jordi’s sense of shame prevents him from telling anyone, and the school’s head flatly rejects the possibility of any bullying taking place. With isolated powerful moments failing to cohere into real drama, tension is maintained by the increasing nastiness of Nacho’s schemes. Carbo brings Jordi’s sufferings to palpable life, but his self-imposed silence makes it hard to warm to him.