Riveting and gut wrenching. Sadistic and sad. Tragic and terrifying.
As a mom, those are the words that came to mind watching A Girl Like Her, an indie film by Amy S. Weber. I both wanted it to end and couldn’t bear leaving my seat when it was over.
Filmed in a documentary style (the film is a fictional but all too real story), the movie chronicles the story of a bully and the bullied, with each girl documenting life in high school from their own perspectives. It’s the classic tale of the popular girl, Avery Keller (played superbly by Hunter King), surrounded by her legion of friends, who antagonizes the un-cool girl, Jessica Burns (Lexi Ainsworth is excellent as the sweet but shy bullied girl) – the one without the fabulous clothes and incredible fashion sense.
You see from very early on in the movie that the tale takes a tragic turn, and the rest of the film offers flashbacks intertwined with updates on the condition of the girl who ends up at death’s door. The emotions the film stirs up range from anger to sadness, despair to frustration. I actually had to remind myself to breathe a few times during the film, watching Jessica’s only friend Brian (the incredible Jimmy Bennett) deal with the situation Jessica is in as well as being the brunt of Avery’s torture.
When the tide of public opinion eventually turns, and the film gives you a glimpse into the back story of Avery, you are literaly torn after swearing your allegiance to the downtrodden Jessica. It’s a twist of emotion you don’t expect.
This is powerful and emotional, and I cannot recommend enough that you see this – as a parent, as a teacher, and definitely as an adolescent trying to navigate life in high school. A Girl Like Her will open your eyes to bullying in ways you don’t expect.
Most people remember every minute of their wedding day. I’m one of them. I remember my Dad being discharged from the hospital one day before, and myself wondering if he’d even make it to walk me down the aisle. I remember the Lenten banners adorning the front of the church – one begging forgiveness, because we know not what we do. I remember my head yanking backwards on my way back up the aisle after Mass when my veil got snagged on the door into the gathering space at the back of the church. I remember my mother-in-law yelling across the dance floor because something wasn’t to her liking.
And I remember the dimples.
For every second of that day that I spent with a concerned thought in my head, when I looked over at Jim, he was smiling a huge smile, highlighting the gorgeous dimples that I knew from our very first date I would be seeing for the rest of my life. And I knew that no matter what was going wrong in that moment, the big picture would always be all right.
24 years later, it’s always all right. I look over at that handsome face every time I feel worry, or hurt, or despair. When I don’t see the dimples, I see the man who has seen me through the loss of my sister and both of my parents. He saw me through five miscarriages and the premature birth of one of my children. He saw me through moves away from my family and moves back home when most of my friends had moved on and forgotten about me. He has lifted me up through job losses and encouraged me through job changes. Every day he makes me feel like I can conquer the world, and every night he makes sure I know that even if I’ve chickened out, I am loved and valued.
When I look at our group wedding picture, as I scan the faces on the steps of the Church with us, a bit of sadness creeps in. We’ve lost so many of the people we loved the most. But then I get to that face and those dimples, and I know that through life’s biggest challenges and greatest celebrations, I made the best decision I will ever make on March 9, 1991.
Granuaile called my stepdad yesterday to let him know she wouldn’t be going over there for a sleepover this weekend. Even though she had the phone to her ear, I could hear it ringing on the other end, and I waited to hear either my stepfather’s voice or the robotic voice of their old answering machine.
But she had called their cell phone.
And my stepdad didn’t hear it to answer it.
And what I heard when the voice clicked in was, “Hi…it’s Anna…”
I have several voicemail messages from my mom saved on my phone, and it’s both comforting and painful to listen to them. But her voice on her cell phone voicemail fools you into thinking she’s there. She says, “Hi”, like she’s answering a call and knows it’s you. In reality, she wasn’t sure the thing was working, so there’s a pause after she’s says hi, almost as if expecting the caller to answer her back.
And so I burst into tears in the Target parking lot. And again watching TV later in the afternoon. And again after going through Granuaile’s dresser to get rid of clothes. My mom bought some of those clothes, and it seemed wrong to get rid of them. But they don’t fit. And the only reason to keep the clothes would have been to keep the temporary pain of memories I’ll never create again at bay another day.
I finished the dresser and closet today. I even went back through the bags of things I brought home from my Mom’s house when Megan and I cleaned out her closets, and I was able to let more of those things go. They weren’t things I especially liked, but somehow had associated them with my mom. But they aren’t her, and they’ll never get used, and now through Goodwill, maybe they will.
So a lot of tears were shed, and sadness overwhelmed me for a while, but stuff got done. And it will keep getting done. And we’ll keep moving on.