Directed By: Alec Ybarra
Starring: Alec Ybarra, Tamara Hutchins, Kyle Gray, Darcy Orrok
Indie Film Review by: Jack Bottomley
Bullying, as a subject is often one that makes for uncomfortable viewing and of the many that feature it, only select films have picked apart the injustices of this systematic torment. Bullying has life long impact and at an age where most of us are finding out who we are and what we want to be, it is sad that such essential life experiences are tarnished by the inhumanity of specific people. However, there is this bizarre notion that once we leave the classrooms and halls of school life bullying becomes a distant memory of a rough n’ tough childhood. Many of us know different. Bullying knows no age limit and in 13-year-old writer/director Alec Ybarra’s true story, this is shown in the largest way possible.
Unmarked sees young actor Alec Diaz (Ybarra) fall prey to the jealous rage of bully Marcus (Kyle Gray) but in an attempt to stop her son being exposed Marcus’ unhinged mother Lynda (Tamara Hutchins) starts an obsessive campaign to vilify Alec and turn the entire school (and teaching staff) against the young man. As somebody who was bullied, this story made for uneasy viewing for me and as Ybarra tells his story you feel justifiably angry and upset at the system and how easily manipulated it can be. While some points are heavily hammered, Unmarked is a film by a young filmmaker with a lot to say and its message is one vital and important to the Internet age.
Unmarked depicts a schooling structure susceptible to prejudice and lies and shows how an adult can be even more abusive and poisonous than a mean child. Lynda flicks a few emails at high speed and puts on some crocodile tears and it is enough to get everyone onside in her aggressive campaign against the boy that is wronged. One particular scene also picks up on the racially motivated injustice of the tale and makes this story a disconcertingly palpable reflection of Trump era societal biases. The film is very short but its running time feels greater thanks to the challenging content and confrontational material, which shows us how incendiary hatred is and how people with a nasty agenda can be believed on a whim, even if evidence points other ways.
This is a film that is very well made, with some fine editing (also by Ybarra), cinematography (by Dan Nimmo) and a strongly atmospheric score by Mark D’Errico. The performances themselves are largely effective as they seem to double down on the cruelty, although it must be said some are very over the top (though perhaps this is intentional) and at times wonky lines. Although Ybarra is particularly gifted in the lead and, as Alec, gives the film a very realistic portrayal that helps in furthering its messages and stance.
Unmarked is a concise film about a complex subject and as it sheds its light on the age-defying nature of bullying from the eyes of a young victim, its story admittedly goes to extremes and while some may struggle to sit through it even tempered, this is a subject that needs more of a spotlight. On the evidence of his craft here Alec Ybarra is another new voice in cinema that could advance on to a lot of great things.
Watch the official movie trailer for Unmarked below...