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Valentine Road is Marta Cunningham’s remarkably well-balanced documentary about the aftermath of the 2008 shooting of 15-year-old Larry King in Oxnard, California. Larry was an openly gay student who was shot in the head twice, at point blank range, by his classmate Brandon McInerney. The film takes an even approach to presenting Larry and Brandon’s stories in an effort to create a context for the examination of this horrible crime.

Larry came from a troubled household, where he was abused both physically and emotionally. After numerous attempts to have child services intervene, Larry was finally removed from the custody of his abusive parents and placed with a caring family. Larry was finally able to express himself and he began to explore his true personality. Classmates of Larry’s didn’t describe him as gay, but rather as transgender. Larry would come to class wearing high heels and make-up, which set him apart from the rest of the students. Brandon McInerney clearly noticed.

Brandon is presented with a detailed history of his own troubled family life. He also comes from an abusive home, both of his parents are drug addicts, and he lives with violence on a daily basis. He is also presented as being a fledgling white supremacist. Initially the background information provided paints a portrait of Brandon as a victim, someone to be pitied. But what actually happens is that the viewer comes to realize how little sympathy should be given to this young man. This is a boy who actively and with a great deal of forethought, brought a gun to school so that he could murder one specific student. This is not a Columbine-style massacre where he opened fire on a group of kids.

Cunningham presents both of these stories with no bias. We get to know the two young men through interviews with their families, friends, teachers, and lawyers and what we discover is that there is rampant ignorance surrounding the issues in this case. The film examines in great detail the trial and the strange circumstances surrounding the proceedings. People were polarized on this case to the point that a mistrial had to be called and the case had to be re-tried.

As a film, Valentine Road is a well-structured examination into the motivations and points of view of some very different people. It is important and interesting subject matter, but the pacing is slow and a lot of the footage between interviews feels overly constructed and a bit melodramatic. One of the strongest moments in the film is a clip from Ellen DeGeneres’ show where she brings attention to this case. She says: “Larry was not a second class citizen and I am not a second class citizen. It’s OK if you’re gay.” Throughout her commentary it’s obvious that Ellen is fighting to hold her emotions in check. Seeing that degree of emotion is truly moving.

Is Valentine Road Essential Inside Out Viewing?

Yes. Tolerance and ignorance are still distant cousins and bringing these issues to the forefront is important. Ultimately the movie isn’t about the murder of a gay student, it’s about the lack of knowledge and bigotry that still exists in society and how this can impact a community.

Valentine Road Screening Time

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