Bullying has, with good reason, become a very hot button issue of late, specifically with the increase of teen suicide and violence over the past years. With The Dirties, we are not only shown it happening, but put in the shoes of victims, using the term loosely, and I’ll explain why.
The Dirties starts out as a class film project between friends Matt and Owen. In the film, the two go after their school’s gang, the titular Dirties, however, playing it in a safe, silly way by making it an action cop thriller of sorts. Their film is funny, both of them playing all the parts and referencing almost any and all movies imaginable. It’s innocent enough, but their teacher suggests they tone it down lest it come across as a school shooting movie. Throughout the entire process Matt and Owen are mercilessly bullied through physical and verbal violence, pushing Matt into making The Dirties into a real revenge thriller.
The message in itself is very clear, how bullying can change a person and will stay with you as long as you live. Addressing this very early on in his change, Matt states that he was always tormented for being himself. Matt’s immersion into film allows him to hide his true nature within the context of the project, so much so that, to us and those around him, he is unable to tell fiction from reality. The Dirties is now Matt’s obsession, fantasy, and life.
It’s an interesting movie to watch. Shot as a film of a film, the cameraman is never identified, always shooting Matt’s antics as he is slowly pushed into become an angrier person. He (the cameraman) rarely has any interaction, but when is addressed, it is the audience who is spoken to instead of the one holding the camera, submerging us even more into Matt’s world. We feel his loneliness as well as anger, and just as he questions himself, we also ask the same questions. As we sink more and more into Matt’s depression, we see our fears realized onscreen as Own looks on horrified at an enthusiastic Matt, gun in hand who simply states, “It’s me, dude.”
The Dirties is the wake up call movie the anti-bullying movement has been asking for, even if they don’t realize it. The characters are sympathetic without having their actions glorified. The uneasiness we feel is needed if we are to look at this as more than, in Matt’s own words, “just a movie.”