USA, 89 mins
Valentine Road is a documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting in Oxnard, California. A fourteen-year-old gay student, Larry King, was shot by his classmate at school and died two days later. Larry King was from a broken family, living in a shelter for children who have been abused, and had just started to experiment with revealing his sexuality through his behaviour and dress. The day before the shooting, Larry had approached his attacker, Brandon McIrneny in front of a group of his friends, to ask him to be his Valentine. This perceived humiliation was more than Brandon was able to handle and he responded by bringing a gun to school the next day and shooting Larry.
Apart from being too long, with far too many extended shots of people (mostly teenagers) crying, it was an extremely interesting and well constructed film. It seems pretty open-and-shut – a kid shoots another kid and should be locked up. Gradually, though, we are given information about Brandon’s life and the society that these two boys grew up in that makes you question what punishment is appropriate and necessary. Whatever you do, do not expect this film to be uplifting and light-hearted. It is deeply sad and disturbing, and I felt little hope for the world after seeing it.
Valentine Road is part of the Next Gen program of MIFF 2013. School bookings are available and there is a free study companion provided by ACMI. It would be a very hard film to teach, but for a mature group of students, there is the potential for deep discussion and learning.
Valentine Road screens at ACMI on Friday, August 2nd at 11am and at Greater Union on Sunday, August 4th at 1:30pm. For tickets, visit MIFF