Playground is a film about a brother and sister surviving primary school. The opening scene is of Nora’s first day, being reassured by her big brother Abel, and torn away from her father.

I just watched this and was like, yup, that’s what it’s like. The synopsis of this film will say it’s about bullying, but it’s not, it’s about the way the world is, the way people are. I remember talking to some lassies at uni about primary school stuff, and getting annoyed when they gasped, “Were you bullied?” No, that’s just life.

If anything, Nora is in a far nicer school than I remember it being. All the teachers are sympathetic and patient, and genuinely concerned by her silences. I watched the movie thinking, Where’s this school? Where the teachers have the time deal with every playground fight, and get to the bottom of exactly what’s behind it? Where they have the patience to sit and comfort children until they’re ready to talk, and give a fuck?

The teachers I think are paragons so as to be a non-issue, and keep all the focus on the world of children, or the world of people as it’s also known. Again, and I think I’ve said this before in another review, I hate how we treat children and their problems as though they’re separate and different from the world we live in. We talk about bullying and use it almost solely in the context of school, but all it is is assholes. People are arseholes, and when you are legally obliged to show up to the same institution every day with the same arseholes, it makes you miserable. How do you adjudicate for that? How do you administer that?

We talk about children’s bullying because their issues look small to us, their interactions seem trivial. But once they are out the peri dish of school and into the wider world, the same dynamics take hold, the same struggles and the same miseries, and they get writ large as huge social problems. Nora and Abel’s problem is that social groups have a pecking order, and it’s dangerous to be at the bottom of that order. That’s it.

My other great annoyance is when adults act like all problems are solvable when the people experiencing them are children. They’re not. If bullying was a petty children’s issue that was resolved by telling a teacher, it wouldn’t exist, it would have been resolved. If we knew how to fix this problem, it wouldn’t be a problem in every classroom, in every school, generation after generation.

Nora and Abel are on their own to try and find a way to exist in this world, safely and happily. And if they don’t, it’ll be decades before they’re free of this system. You can only hope, with what lies ahead of them, that they have each other.