“Reach” Shares an Emotional Tale About the Bullied and the Bully – Movie Review

Reach Movie Review 2018 Garrett Clayton
Steven Turano (Garrett Clayton) and Clarence West (Johnny James Fiore) in ‘Reach.’ (Image: PR)

Reach is one of those films that shed light on very important issues being faced by society, particularly the younger generation. While some plot points could have been handled better, I do appreciate why this film was created.

I was provided a free screener of Reach for review. The opinions are my own.

Trigger Warning: This review of Reach talks about suicide and bullying.

Reach categorizes itself as a high school comedy/drama. So I was a bit unsure about how it was going to address suicide and bullying. Were the jokes going to cross a line?

However, as soon as the movie began, I could tell the narrative voice was in good hands. It struck a balance between the serious elements of the story and the light-hearted moments experienced by the young characters.

Here’s the official description:

In Reach a socially awkward band geek, Steven Turano (Garrett Clayton), divulges to an online pro-suicide support group that he plans to kill himself. Although his first attempt is unsuccessful, he is determined to find a way to escape his suffering. Steven harbors a deep resentment towards his widowed father, Steve Turano (Bojesse Christopher), and he is constantly picked-on by former childhood best friend and high school bully, Nick Perkins (Jordan Doww). However, when Clarence West (Johnny James Fiore), the new quirky kid in school, befriends him, Steven’s plans are side-tracked, and he begins to REACH out beyond his comfort zone to form stronger relationships with his father, friends (Joey Bragg, Steven Capp, Rio Mangini) and teacher, Mr. Tony (Grant Harling).

Check out the trailer!

As far as my opinion goes, Garret Clayton, who recently also came out while talking about this movie, does an impressive job as Steven. There is a lot Steven has to deal with, and Clayton’s body language helps the audience understand how weighed down the character is because of his past and how he is able to slowly open up when Clarence West (Johnny James Fiore) enters the picture. Fiore is also credited as a writer along with Maria Capp, and Grant Harling (who plays the role of Mr. Tony).

Now, I get what kind of character the writers were going for, however, I couldn’t help but think Clarence was the type of dude that only existed in films. In my years of academic life, I have not seen anyone like him. But as a character he gets the job done, and Fiore plays him in a manner which makes Clarence very easy to warm up to.

Garrett Clayton art work
An art commission I did of Garret Clayton after he came out (Image: Farid-ul-Haq)

I mentioned in the title of this review about how Reach is able to tell a story from the perspectives of both the bully and the bullied. Out actor Jordan Doww is brilliant as the bully Nick. I liked how the writers explored his background and past friendship with Steven.

While I am not excusing Nick’s actions as a bully, the film shows how everyone is dealing with emotional baggage and not all of us are able to deal with the stuff the right way. Reaching out to help the bullied is important. But reaching out to the bully and trying to understand where such actions stem from is important, too.

There is an element of mystery around Steven and Nick’s past as childhood friends. We get to learn more about it as the film progresses. The actors playing Steven and Nick’s fathers also do a good job. We have Steven’s widowed father growing worried about his son’s wellbeing while Nick’s father continues to not deal with his alcoholism and has been taking out his frustration on his queer son.

Did I mention Nick is queer? I can understand if certain viewers don’t appreciate showing a closeted queer kid being a bully who also brings a gun to school to shoot Steven. Such a narrative choice didn’t sit well with me either.

Furthermore, I do think the approximately one-and-a-half hour runtime was a bit too short. This is the kind of movie which could have benefitted with a few more scenes. There were many questions I didn’t get answers to.

Some of them being:

  • How did Clarence get back to normal after drinking too much and fighting with Steven? Did his grandparents get him help? Did he magically feel okay again?
  • Why didn’t Nick’s secret hookup (Richard) reach out to Nick after his father’s accident? He seemed very unaffected about what was going on in Nick’s life.
  • Why didn’t Steven get to know about Nick’s father being in the hospital? As far as my experience goes, news about a student’s parent having a near-fatal (and fatal) accident spread like wildfire during high school. If not Steven, Clarence came across as a character who would have tried to reach out to Nick.
  • Did Steven’s father and Nick’s mother have an affair or was Nick’s father being paranoid?
  • What happened to Nick after the incident at the high school?

Sigh! I really wanted Reach to give me answers to these questions. Maybe the film did, but I couldn’t see them? The storytelling would have benefited from at least 10 more minutes added to the total runtime.

In the end, Reach is about bringing positivity to someone else’s life as well as being open to receiving such positivity if someone is trying to share it with you. It might not the perfect film talking about bullying and suicide, but it does hit certain notes that make it movie with a message.

With October being National Bullying Awareness Month, Reach is getting a limited theatrical as well as a Digital release on October 19, 2018.

Feel free to share your thoughts about Reach with us.

Important note: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24/7, free and confidential support.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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