By Eli Brunsman
And Then I Go was the last movie I saw at Heartland. It is definitely the film I was most excited to see because I love when movies feature talented young actors. This film definitely does! And Then I Go focuses on eighth grader Edwin and his best and only friend “Flake.” Edwin and Flake are constantly bullied at their middle school. The film successfully shows that anyone can be bullied, and the director doesn’t dip into the “nerd” stereotype that I’m tired of seeing. Edwin and Flake might not enjoy the same things as their classmates, like TV and social media, but they’re fairly normal kids. They would rather listen to a CD of history’s greatest speeches, which was one of my favorite quirky details in the film.
As Edwin and Flake continue to be bullied, their anger intensifies. Edwin begins to act out at school, and his parents react in a totally inappropriate way. His dad, played by Justin Long, is totally useless as he just adds to Edwin’s feeling of hopelessness. His dad teases him continuously. His mom starts to get a little better at comforting Edwin, but she still focuses on punishing him rather than trying to understand what he’s going through. Unbeknownst to their parents, Edwin and Flake begin to plan a school shooting. They keep a list of everyone who has wronged them and plan to bust in during a school assembly with Flake’s father’s guns.
The movie continues to get more and more heart-wrenching as Edwin tries and fails to distance himself from Flake. He begins to show improvements, like getting involved with his classmates in an art project, but things keep pushing him towards the edge. All Edwin wants is to be there for his little brother, Gus. He is sweet to Gus the entire movie, showing a softer side of his personality. But the bullies won’t leave Edwin alone, and even the adults contribute. I even saw the principal as just another misguided bully. My friends and I were on the edge of our seats wondering if Edwin would go through with the school shooting.
And Then I Go does a wonderful job of capturing the intensity of preteen emotions. It is impossible for Edwin and Flake to think positively about the future because everything seems so inescapable. Instead of guessing that these kids are bullied and tormented, nearly every adult labels them as delinquents. It was so frustrating, but captivating, to watch these kids continue to get into trouble. They refuse to tell anyone they are being bullied because of stigma and shame. I loved this film because it inspires an important discussion about bullying and the internal turmoil it creates. It takes courage to create a movie like this instead of ignoring this narrative. Everyone should see And Then I Go for an inside look at dark but realistic middle school struggles.