Rated 4.0

This fine, gentle, moving documentary takes on what has become an urgent national issue—bullying, sometimes with drastic consequences, among American school children. It makes no definitive statement on the issue signaled in its title, but it does give us some valuable glimpses inside a handful of specific cases. Filmmakers Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen build their study around bullied kids and their families in Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma and Mississippi. A bright gawky 14-year-old in Iowa, an openly gay 16-year-old gal from Oklahoma and a 14-year-old honor student and basketball star (jailed for pulling a gun on her tormentors in a school bus) in Mississippi are the film’s foreground figures. But the parents of two school-boy suicides, one in Georgia and another in Oklahoma, also loom large, particularly in the part of the film that is concerned with burgeoning grassroots movements to raise awareness on these issues. A school principal in Iowa and a sheriff in Mississippi provide some troubling signs of institutional breakdown, but Bully makes no sweeping indictments. Small-town provincialism recurs, but those same environments yield up some beacons of enlightenment—the parents of those suicides in particular, but also the surviving best friend of the Oklahoma suicide, who identifies himself as a reformed bully. Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.