valentine-road-002

Director: Marta Cunningham

Running Time: 89 minutes

Synopsis: On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during first period. When Larry died two days later, his murder shocked the nation. Looking beyond all the copious news coverage of this tragic event, Valentine Road tells the story of two victims: the deceased and the murderer. 

You were probably living under a rock if you didn’t hear of the tragic shooting of Larry King back in 2008. It’s a case that still divides opinion today and VALENTINE ROAD is set up to get that debate fired up again.

The real-time narrative provides a crucial element here by looking at prolonged court cases and a community dealing with the horrific situation. The documentary has one thing that the news coverage does not: stories from people that knew the boys and an insight of the people fighting for justice for both Larry and Brandon.

Marta Cunningham’s documentary doesn’t take any sides, but instead shows both stories equally to leave the audience to decide their views. She interviews everybody – from teachers to classmates all the way to jurors on the case. We have to warn you in advance, some of the interview declarations will make you want to scream out in rage. It’s hard to believe that adults who were supposed to keep a neutral opinion about both sides of the situation can make such homophobic declarations and still be in teaching.

But, saying this, out of the bigoted adults and unbelievable theories, the most heartbreaking story of all is the classmates who had to witness the horrific crime. The documentary is not long after the crime itself, so VALENTINE ROAD almost plays out like a counselling session for some pupils, which makes it saddening to watch. The only time an adult is shown caring about the classmates is when Dawn Boldrin, the teacher who had been forced out of teaching because she had been accepting of Larry’s gender exploration, is reunited with her ex-pupils Marina and Mariah, while hugging them both she says, “I didn’t mean to leave you behind.” It’s devastating.

Sadly, this is a story that’s also becoming too familiar and comes at a crucial point to prove that education is needed not in children, but also the adults who project their views onto the easily influenced. But whatever your opinion on the murder of Larry King, there is one thing for certain- VALENTINE ROAD is incredibly powerful and moving and will stick with you for a long time.

[usr=4] VALENTINE ROAD is currently showing at BFI Flare. Keep it THN for more coverage of BFI Flare Film Festival.