Netflix recently added a new mock-documentary called A Girl Like Her, which follows two teenage girls through their complicated relationship. Jessica Burns and Avery Keller were once best friends, but like any high school friendship, something happens between them which built a wall. Over the course of 6 months, Jess endures relentless harassment from Avery, which includes physical, verbal, emotional, and virtual abuse–everything from name calling to telling Jess to commit suicide.
And she does.
On the surface, this film is fucking incredible. The acting is superb. I had to actually pause it to make sure this wasn’t a real documentary because the actors are that convincing. It accurately portrays the hopelessness a person feels when they’re stuck in any situation that they can’t find a solution for. In Jess’s case, it’s intense bullying. And even the bullying and the reactions to the bullying are spot on. The school’s teachers and officials are “interviewed” and seem to make up excuses as to why they didn’t put an end to it, or why they didn’t realize Jess’s change in mood and personality. The guilt and grief is so real and raw, I really felt like a student experiencing this myself.
This film is amazing for two reasons: A, it showcases the effect that suicide has on family and friends and even peers or acquaintances; and B, it delves into the bully’s side of things. Brian, Jess’s best friend in the film, convinces her to document the harassment, and the footage is later shown to Avery and it’s not until that point that she even realized that what she was doing was really affecting Jessica. That is something that I feel no one really takes into consideration when creating these movies. Sometimes, and I know this from my own experience, we don’t know that our words and actions are truly hurting someone. I just loved this aspect of the film. I loved how Avery was made a victim of herself, too. And I loved her redemption at the end.
Jessica’s family reacted in different ways to her suicide. Her mother blamed herself for having the Hydrocodone that she overdosed on, and for not knowing what was going on in her daughter’s life. Her father became a rock that occasionally crumbled under grief, but his character supported both his wife, and Jessica’s little sister Gabrielle, who was too young to understand what was going on, but knew enough to be scared for her sister. Brian was angry and sorrowful, and he also blamed himself for not knowing the extent of her pain and not doing anything about Jessica’s abuse. He took no bullshit from the kids at school who pretended to be Jess’s friend now that she wasn’t around to ignore anymore. And even Jess’s classmates reacted in such a real way. She was suddenly someone instead of just a body beside them in class.
Avery’s guilt comes off defensive throughout the film. She holds her ground as someone not very fond of Jessica because she’s afraid to admit that she was in the wrong, that she could influence someone’s decision to end their life. Hunter King’s (Avery) performance is so strong and real that I don’t really have the words to describe it besides it being in-fucking-credible.
Lexi Ainsworth’s (Jessica) shining moment was when Brian found her crying in the stairwell and she admitted to him that she couldn’t take the abuse any longer. Ainsworth executed depression, hopelessness, sorrow, and pain so well that it brought me to tears, to outright weeping for her.
This film is so well done, that I want every single person to see it. I want it shown in schools. I want people to see it and take something from it the way that I did. Amy S. Weber, thank you. Thank you for this brilliant piece of work. Thank you for creating it and doing it masterfully. It’s absolutely phenomenal. I recommend it to every single person.