Anna Odell is a central fixture in The Reunion. In addition to writing, directing and starring in the film, it is also a deeply personal work, recalling her years as the victim of school bullying.
The Reunion is a thought-provoking film, examining not only childhood hierarchies and power dynamics, but also the ease with which a group of allegedly civilised human beings can suddenly – and violently – lose control.
A common phrase throughout is some variation of ‘I was a child, I can’t be held responsible for what I did in the past’. Odell’s blank stare alone is enough to make some who utter the phrase cringe before they even finish speaking.
The dynamic means that Odell has a mixed relationship with her audience. The film begins by depicting a hypothetical school reunion, which starts off genial and nostalgic, before quickly becoming awkward and tense as Odell begins to call out individual classmates on various instances of abuse. Viewers too feel the strain as she disrupts an unspoken code: the idea that a victim of childhood bullying should smile sweetly at her tormentor, because it would be impolite to dredge up the past.
For Odell’s classmates she is only a small part of their happy childhood memories. But for her the bullying shaped, and continues to shape, her life, her confidence and her interactions with others.
The Reunion is an uncomfortable film to watch, but like many uncomfortable films this is because it touches a nerve for the viewer. The one thing the film does not, or cannot, do is provide any answers to the problem that it presents. Odell’s experiment (it seems not unfair to describe The Reunion as such) doesn’t stem from a desire to change the world. Instead there is a sense of catharsis, of Odell taking the chance to lash out in anger, while her ex-classmates find the tables reversed, entering a medium in which she holds the power and influence.