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On My Level

average rating is 2 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Apr 30, 2024

Film Reviews
On My Level
Directed by:
Grace Morgan
Written by:
Grace Morgan and Jasmine Otley
Amy Lang, Haleem Clift, Edie Lambden

The age-old problem of bullying has long been the bane of schoolchildren the world over and is something we have all experienced, in one form or another, from one side or the other, at some point in our lives. Even though bullying in schools has been around since the dawn of formal education, each successive generation seems to think that they have a monopoly on the angst and distress caused by this seeming rite of passage, with today’s generation being no different.


However, what the schoolchildren of today may be able to lay claim to as a bigger danger being faced, which perhaps no other cohort has had to deal with, is the introduction of lethal weapons into the mix. Sadly, as was only very recently evidenced in a high school in Wales, knife crimes, stabbings and even murders amongst teenagers are on the rise, with 16-24 year olds now being the most likely demographic to be a victim of such a crime. And this is to say nothing of what’s happening across the pond in America.


As such, what director Grace Morgan, along with her producing and writing partner Jasmine Otley, are trying to offer us in On My Level, is a window into just what’s going on in the classrooms, changing rooms and sports fields of the school system in this country. Sophie (Lang) is having to deal with her own set of ‘mean girls’, whose bullying is by all accounts at a really low level, but constant. She is excluded from groups and teams, has to endure endless sniggering and giggling from behind her and is the recipient of some hurtful remarks. Her adoptive brother, Dan (Clift) on the other hand is having to face a similar barrage of meanness and hatred but with the usual amount of male brutishness and physical domination also added in for good measure. Together they try to find a way out of their victimhood; one which will silence the bullies forever.


As the story progresses, we watch as a lot of Sophie’s problems can be solved by a simple standing up for herself, something which is encouraged by her brother, Dan. However, the further into things we go, the more we find that Dan’s supportive suggestions stray into bad idea territory and that he may be doing Sophie more harm than good. This could all be down to the fact that Dan is dealing with his own problems, which are more physical in nature, but it could also point to something more destructive, something hidden and more nefarious in its aspect.


As you might expect, On My Level is told from a teenager’s standpoint, with teenage actors, in a teenage setting. Each short scene is directly to the point in what it shows and says, and has the feeling of being complete and discrete within itself. As each scene adds to the narrative from the one before, with its own lead in, conflict or exposition, then lead out, it becomes easy to see where the joins are, therefore creating a disconnect with the audience. The children do well enough at playing children but in terms of emotion, subtlety, expression or performance, it all comes across with usual amount of these you would expect from a regular teenager.


With Grace Morgan barely out of her teens herself, what she has created here is representative of her experience and outlook. The story is presented in staccato like scenes, with only functional dialogue and poor movement of character and scenario, giving everything the feel of a high school project. The suggestion also, that the victims of bullying are the dangerous ones to watch out for, does not sit well and seems to misrepresent the realities behind the statistics of youth knife crime, completely sidestepping the whole influence of gang culture and imported violence into our schools.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film, Digital / DVD Release
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