“Movies like this reinforce the dangerous idea that you only matter when you are dead.”
So yesterday, on my mom’s recommendation, I watched Spijt!, a Dutch film about the effects of bullying. Usually my mom doesn’t have the best taste in movie, but I always check out here recommendations simply because she watches a lot more shit on Netflix than I do. Spijt! turned out to be just another nail in the coffin of my respect for her opinion.
Just to get this out of the way, I’m going to be spoiling Spijt!, so if you have yet to see the movie (and you want to, for some reason) then I would avoid this review. Just know that it is fucking terrible.
Movies like Spijt! make me sick. The idea that a concept so intricate and diverse as bullying and depression linked to bullying can be boiled-down into a 90-minute movie is insulting to me. And there are movies who tackle the subject of bullying with grace (like The Dirties for example), but those movies all have one thing in common: the bullying isn’t the focus of the movie. As soon as you make a movie where the entire plot is about a kid being bullied, it’s going to suck. It’s going to suck because there is no way that you can add anything to the topic, or cover everything that needs to be covered on the topic. You’re always going to be struggling to keep a neutral stance and your movie will feel neutered because of it. Spijt! suffers this exact same fate. I just want to be clear here: I really did hate this movie, but all of the criticism I’m going to give it is also directed at all of the other shitty bullying movies that have been released throughout the years. Spijt! just came along at the wrong time and is getting my undivided hate.
So let’s break this piece of shit down bit by bit. First of all, Spijt! takes the topic of bullying and turns it up to fucking eleven. The shit that happens in this movie is disgusting and makes you feel bad, but I can guarantee that it doesn’t happen in real life. Not only do the kids at this school call this kid names, but they also: force him to drink an entire bottle of alcohol, steal his clothes, shove his face into plates of food, and kick the shit out of him. There is no way that all of this can happen to one kid, and nobody notices it. But that’s where Spijt! over exaggerates again, because not only does one of the teachers notice it, but he joins in on the fun. What fucking world do these people live in where teachers actively bully their students? I get it, bullying is bad, but nobody has it this fucking bad. And that’s a main problem for Spijt!, the fact that everything in this movie is executed with about as much grace as an elephant trying to ice skate. Even the fucking title translates to “Regret!”, which tells you everything you need to know about how this movie handles its emotional segments. And because of these gross hyperboles that take place, you can forecast the entire movie from the first 10 minutes. Nothing comes as a shock because Spijt! essentially relies on Murphy’s law. And because of how derivative the story is, the movie is boring as shit. Everything is presented as a surprise even though you know exactly what comes next. And to continue talking about the story, why was it so confusing? Who was the main character? Was it the kid who got bullied, or was it the kid who was kind of a friend to the kid who got bullied? Or was it the girl who was also kind of a friend to the kid who got bullied? Or maybe it was the bullies themselves? And what was up with the convoluted love dodecahedron that was taking place? It was like a shitty soap opera with a bunch of dutch kids. And the other thing is this movie is soul-crushing. It goes overboard to make sure you are having the worst time possible, and then in makes you wonder why this kid killed himself in the end. Have you seen the rest of the movie? Of course he killed himself! Look at what you made those kids do to him!
And that brings me to my final point, and the one that I find the most egregious. Once again this applies to most films about bullying, but I’m picking on Spijt! because it’s the one we’re discussing today. Why is it that whenever a movie about suicide comes out, it proves the very point that it is trying to condemn? Every person who tells you not to commit suicide tells you pretty much the same stuff: “Things will get better”, “I’m here for you”, “It’s a temporary solution to a permanent problem”. And yet every single movie that I’ve seen that deals with suicide reinforces the idea that people who have suicidal thoughts have no recourse but to kill themselves; Spijt! is a perfect example of this. This poor kid got bullied a lot, and nobody helped him. If they weren’t bullying him, they were ignoring him. Everyone was involved in this kid’s demise. But what happens when he kills himself? Literally every single person starts going off about how great this kid was at everything he did. He was so nice, he was a musical genius, he was my friend. Where was all of this shit when he was alive? The ending of this movie in my opinion acts like a cautionary tale. It’s warning you that you might lose what you have before you know that you had it, but I don’t think that applies. Sure these people were talking about how great this kid was when he was dead, but what happens if he wouldn’t have died? Do you think anyone would have cared about him any more than they had been? Movies like this reinforce the dangerous idea that you only matter when you are dead. I don’t disagree with this sentiment, but I recognize that it is a dangerous mindset to have.
Overall Spijt! is a pretty fucking terrible movie. It’s bad in every sense of the word when you think of it as a movie (boring plot, confusing story structure, hamfisted feelings), but it’s even worse when you think about it as a ‘warning’ simply because it presents the dangerous mindset that killing yourself will force people to see how great you were. I would not recommend watching this movie, and I was going to make a joke about it making me want to kill myself but it doesn’t even deserve the effort. It’s just bad.
I give Spijt! a D