Bully by Marc Pye was the second of five individual contemporary dramas in the Moving On series, and, despite the dodgy theme tune, this was a really well crafted piece. The only criticism I had of it is that the drama unfolded and ultimately resolved rather quickly, but tempus fugit ruled in that regard; it needed to be fast paced to fit such a ‘big’ story into 42 minutes.
However, it was a truly compelling film which showed how quickly small dramas can turn into infinitely larger ones with potentially devastating consequences. In case you missed it, the story revolved around two families who were neighbours and best friends. They’d all just been on holiday to Spain together however there’d been tension between the sons of the families, Ryan and Andrew…
Ryan teased Andrew and called him “fat boy” in Spanish. Andrew couldn’t retaliate and was a timid boy – both were around 10 or 11 – but after a ‘toughen up’ speech from his dad Colin – brilliantly played by Lee Boardman – he decided to hit back at Ryan.
This began a chain of events which would see the two families almost implode. Ryan began beating Andrew and, not unnaturally, Les, Ryan’s dad, and his mum Jean were angry and threats were bandied about. Additionally, Jean went to the police to report Andrew’s attacks on her son so Colin spray painted the word ‘Grass’ on Les’s car.
Later, Les told his wife that Colin was having an affair with a woman at work which she promptly told Sonia, Colin’s wife, about. However, on the same day, Andrew went missing on his way to school. The police were of course called and there were several witnesses to the fact that Les had threatened to kill Andrew if he went near Ryan again, so he was suspected of having something to do with Andrew’s disappearance.
I won’t give away the whole plot in case you missed it and want to watch it – which you can do here on BBC’s iPlayer – but the strong performances from Mark Womack as Les, Lee Boardman as Colin and the children in the piece, Jack Ryan and Luke Roskell, were all outstanding and made this a really convincing drama.
Julia Ford and Claire Keelan as the protective, nurturing mothers both turned in equally excellent performances, however, if I had to choose one person who really shone in this drama it would have to be Lee Boardman. The last time I saw Lee in anything was when he played Jez Quigley in Coronation Street and though he’s spread out round the middle these days, he hasn’t lost the ability to portray menace just with his on-screen presence. He’s still got that whole raw animal magnetism going on too but that’s by the by.
In the first few opening shots, I thought we were going to find out that as Colin, he was beating his son but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Nonetheless, the potential for uncontrolled violence was, throughout the programme, almost palpable from both Boardman and Womack.
Perhaps the best thing about Bully was that, as a parent, I could easily relate to both sets of characters and as the drama played out, it was also easy to see how quickly what amounted to a petty drama between kids can spread like emotional wildfire and threaten everything; friendships, work relationships, even marriages.
I suppose it was a tale of morality and a happy ending in most regards, which was perhaps a little too neat, but the potential for preachy, clichéd and moralistic overtones was fortunately not a factor due to the subtlety of the writing and the casting of very believable actors to play the central roles.