I read somewhere that A Girl Like Her is probably the most important movie that you’ll never see in 2015. After seeing it, I have to agree. It’s the story of Jessica, who attempts to commit suicide because of being bullied, but really, it’s the story of Avery, the bully. It’s both of their stories in a way that brings compassion and healing to all involved. Really, it was brilliantly done, every part of it, and is worth seeing equally for its subject, its message and for its delivery. You will leave this movie with a somber heart, but also with hope and with much to talk about. Here are a few things to get you started in your discussions.
Lessons from the Victim
Jessica was being bullied by Avery. She didn’t want to tell anyone about it because she was afraid that would only make it worse. Eventually, she felt the only way out of the pain she was in was to die, so she overdosed on some pills she found at home. Jessica didn’t die though—she ended up in a coma in the hospital. The movie does a good job of showing not only what drove Jessica to suicide, but also the hurt and pain her attempted suicide brought to everyone around her. And if you go to www.agirllikehermovie.com/aftermath you can watch Jess in a follow-up video and learn that she is on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant…and as Amy points out, she’s a lucky one because many don’t survive or end up in worse shape than she is.
Here are some questions to think about/discsuss:
- Jessica felt there was no way out of the pain. Do you think that’s true? Have YOU ever felt like that was true?
- A verse in the Bible says that “this too shall pass”… how might have applied to Jessica and Avery? How long do you think Jessica would have waited for things to “pass”? (Think—graduation at least would have changed things because they wouldn’t have been going to school together anymore…Jessica would have just had to wait a while.) Have you ever been in a situation that felt like it would last forever? Did it? How hard is it to wait for things to change when you’re in the middle of it and it’s painful?
- Jessica felt like telling someone would have only made things worse. Could she have told someone? Who are the people who she maybe could have told? How might telling someone have helped? How might it have made things worse? The Bible says to “cast your cares on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-11). Do you believe that God cares for you? Do you cast your cares on Him? Would if make a difference if you did?
- People around Jessica all blamed themselves for what she did, even though it wasn’t their fault. Have you ever blamed yourself for something someone else did? Have you ever blamed someone else for something you did?
- How close have you been to suicide in your life? Have you known anyone who has committed suicide? Have you ever considered it yourself?
- How did this movie make you feel about suicide?
- Brian was Jess’s best friend and probably the only person who know about what was happening to Jessica. He wanted to tell someone, but she made him promise not to. What do you think Brian should have done? Do you always keep someone’s secrets or are there times you should tell someone else? Do you think that, if he had told someone sooner, things might have changed? How did they change after he told someone?
Lessons from the Bully
In the movie, Amy (the documentarian) tells Avery that hers is “the most important story” and she works hard to capture that story, to reveal who Avery really is and why she would hurt someone else like she does. She tells Avery, “I think you’re a very powerful young woman who people love and people follow… and underneath it you’re just a young woman who’s in a lot of pain.” We see that pain. Avery has a difficult home life and friends who don’t really know her or care about her. Ironically, she feels even more alone than Jessica, only instead of hurting herself, she chose to hurt someone else.
It would have been easy to create a villain in Avery—someone that everyone hates, because she is villainous. But she becomes very human in this movie, someone you actually care about, mostly because we see her through Amy’s eyes. Amy doesn’t treat her with contempt or judgement, but with love and tenderness. Amy sees through Avery’s façade. She listens. She probes for the truth. She sees the good in Avery’s personality, along with the bad. In the end, she’s the one who gently forces Avery to come face to face with the truth. She makes Avery watch a video of herself bullying Jessica, and when she sees the truth, it breaks her. Later, a repentant Avery says, “I thought it would be easier to put up a wall and control others—and I was lucky enough to have someone take the time to tell me and show me and listen to me. I never had that before. It wasn’t me just joking around, it was me ruining somebody.” In the end, Avery gives us hope for every hateful person we know—maybe there’s more to their story, maybe they are hurting themselves, and maybe they can change if only someone can give them love and truth.
Here are some questions to think about/discuss:
- Avery felt like she was all alone, even though she was the most popular girl in school. Why did she feel alone? Do you sometimes feel alone even if you’re surrounded by friends? Jesus says you’re not alone and that He is always with you (or willing to be if you let him, anyway)—does that make a difference to you?
- Amy felt like Avery’s story was the most important story. Why might that be?
- Did seeing Avery’s home life make you feel and think differently about her? Have you ever felt differently about someone after you got to know more about their life?
- When you see someone who is being mean and hurting other people, do you see someone who is mean, or someone who is hurting inside?
- Amy’s willingness to love Avery earned her the right to speak truth to Avery. Who has loved you enough to earn the right to speak truth to you? Did you know that two of the things that God is called are love and truth? How important is it that we have a God who embodies both of those?
- Are there any Avery’s in your life—people who are mean towards others? How might you be an Amy to that person? How might you listen to them, love them, help them feel like they aren’t being judged, but still stand for the truth around them? Do you think you might be more willing to do that after seeing this movie?
- Avery wanted to apologize to Jessica, but it was too late and it looked like Jess might never come out of her coma. How did that make her feel? Did it make you think about making things right with people in your life while you still can? Is there anyone you need to ask to forgive you?
- Avery said, “People paid me attention because of what I was doing and even though it wasn’t positive attention, it was attention. I didn’t care.” Have you ever received negative attention? Did you like it, even though it was negative, because it was attention?