Editor's note: "Through a Screen Darkly," a monthly commentary by CT Movies critic Jeffrey Overstreet,explores films old and new, as well as relevant themes and trends in cinema. The column continues the journey begun in Overstreet's book of the same name.
Bullies lurk in the corridors of Christian schools, too.
I remember them well. While my ability on the basketball court earned me some measure of respect from the bruisers in my junior high school, I still had four marks against me: I was an A-student, was awkward in social circles, had no spending money to achieve any kind of "cool" factor, and wasn't a partygoer. So when easier targets for the bullies' fists weren't around, I became fair game.
That's why big-screen scenes of bullying and cruelty are hard for me to endure. It's not that I have flashbacks; in fact, the insensitive ruffians became my friends when they finally matured. It's just that I feel for the one who suffers. And worse, I can usually guess where the movie is headed. I've had my fill of crowd-pleasing pictures in which the wounded finds some clever way to wreak revenge on the bad guys.
It's rare that we find thoughtful examinations of how young people suffer behind the backs of neglectful adults. 2004's Mean Creek and 2006's This is England are two brilliant exceptions to the rule. Both are honest, rewarding depictions of what can happen when young people have no good help in responding to mistreatment by their peers.
But this year, two more remarkable exceptions appeared—Choking Man and Ben X, both distributed by Film Movement, both about persecuted, alienated young men. There are considerable differences between the films, but they share some surprising things in common.
A tormented immigrant
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Lord of the Outcasts
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