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Cyberbully – Review


Release Date: 15th January 2015 [UK]
Director: Ben Chanan
Writer: Ben Chanan - David Lobatto
Cast: Maisie Williams



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Posted January 22, 2015 by

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Cyberbully Review:

I don’t know if it’s just me, but franchises like Harry Potter, where actors and actresses start off in the film quite young and grow up in front of your very eyes makes me feel slightly old and quite emotionally attached to the performers themselves; almost like watching an old friend on the screen. In the case of an actor like Maisie Williams, with 6 seasons of Game of Thrones under her belt, that adds up to one heck of a lot of time. I think it is this emotional attachment coupled with the raw nerve the subject matter touched that made Cyberbully such a phenomenon.

Maisie Williams plays Casey. She is an average teenager going about her daily business – and her daily business involves a heavy dose of social media and internet. All of a sudden and quite out of the blue, her online life is slowly taken over by an anonymous person. This person seems to have the technical ability to ruin her life – both online and offline – as she knows it. The question is who is doing this… And why…

First of all, let us stop for a second and take our hats off to Maisie Williams who has, when we break it down a bit, basically made a spectacular job of a part that basically involved sitting in a room and talking to a computer for over an hour. Her acting ability is clearly going from strength to strength and I am excited to see what she will do next.

As far as the subject matter goes, we are at a very interesting frontier. A new generation, having grown up with the internet and smart technology embedded in their lives more than ever before have now reached their late teens and early 20s. This represents a whole new way of communicating and living online that is sometimes incomprehensible for the older generations. Cyberbully puts the spotlight on a very real phenomenon – cyberbullying. And at this point I have to admit that at times, this rather dialogue-heavy film slides off into the domain of a moralizing public information film. But, if you look a bit beyond all of that that, you will realise the film is trying to show us something else as well. The moralizing tone is in part due to the fact that the cyberbully – roughly ten years older than Casey – does not exactly understand how Casey’s generation uses the internet. Without defending any particular point, it is interesting to note that Casey is desperately trying to explain that the hacker is old, things are different and he-she just does not get it.

On the matter of the internet, there is another interesting innovation this film makes. We are well passed those uncertain times where we are not sure how to represent the internet in our films if at all. Gone are awkward over the shoulder shots and internal voices reading messages and e-mails out loud. Oh technology helps of course. But the internet, now such an immutable fact in our lives, is also a space where a films action can take place. In Cyberbully, it may seem as if the film takes place in a single location – the character Casey’s bedroom – but it actually takes place mostly in a completely different place : on the internet. And of course the internet actually means several different locations all at once (profiles, smartphones, laptops etc.) and the camera can encompass all of these by simply paning towards the screen Casey is looking at. I would argue that this very much mirrors modern life and our relationship with the internet on a day to day basis… We are after all constantly in more than one place at once – at the office and on Twitter. On the couch in front of the TV and on Instagram. And all we need to do is pan (look) from real life to the screen to change locations…

There are more films out there trying to insert the internet as a location. To give but one example, the latest trailer for Unfriend seems to tell the story of a vengeful ghost using the internet to target a group of friends as we watch the goings on via their computers and their skype conversation. It would appear that, if they haven’t already, the pre-smartphone era will just have to come to terms with the fact that the internet is a separate location in our lives and in our art. One might well argue that Cyberbully could do better on pace (even for a dialogue heavy film, I found it slow in places) and tone down on the moralizing. But one cannot deny that it is one of the first results of a new phenomenon in filmmaking and an important precursor of things to come.


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Sedef Hekimgil
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