Merel, a talented young girl, is suddenly getting bullied at school.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Elske Rotteveel ...
Merel de Leeuw
Kees Scholten ...
Kasper de Leeuw
Elsie de Brauw ...
Mrs. De Leeuw
Jaap Spijkers ...
Mr. De Leeuw
Bright O'Richards ...
Bente de Vries ...
Floris Heyne ...
Carmen Otten ...
Sharai Voet ...
Samir Veen ...
Ramon Lieshout ...
Bodine van Zalk ...
Blond meisje 1
Avalon Verbunt ...
Blond meisje 2
Florentijn van Meeuwen ...
Eline Hoorn ...


Merel is a young girl with a lot of talent. She excels at school, is good on the springboard and is careful too. Her severely handicapped brother Kasper gets a lot of attention. Merel also has talent for singing. It is no surprise that she is asked for the school musical. But maybe Merel is a bit too convinced of herself. When people perform solos, she likes to sing along loudly. This doesn't fall on good ground though. People start ignoring her and she is getting bullied. All of the sudden Merel's life isn't that easy anymore, it will be hard to keep herself together. Written by Arnoud Tiele (

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Music





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Release Date:

10 April 2004 (Netherlands)  »

Box Office


€1,100,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

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Written by Flea and Anthony Kiedis
Performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
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User Reviews

Dutch charmer is an appealingly earnest coming-of-age story
29 April 2006 | by (The Great Northwest) – See all my reviews

Perhaps it was just my major penchant for European coming-of-age stories, but I was glad that at the pivotal third weekend at this year's SIFF I happened to come across the Dutch charmer "Bluebird", an affecting, agreeably minimalist chronicle of one girl's crucial step from childhood to adolescence, in a film skillful enough to distinguish genuine sweetness from saccharine condescension, thankfully sticking throughout to the former.

In "Bluebird", Merel (Elske Rotteveel) might just be the most charming 12-year-old in her city-wide junior high school, and yet she's ostensibly the school's most ambitious pariah. With few friends despite an ample dose of after-school activities, she's an ever zealous, extremely bright student whose naturally superlative work is often, at least to the teachers, inconspicuous. She's on the diving squad, sings in the class musical and consistently gets high marks in school, but yet it seems perhaps too natural for anyone to notice, a physical and emotional overload with no room for exultation.

Along with her busy schoolwork, she also has to embody an almost mother-infant relationship with her physically and mentally disabled younger brother, who's facing another possible stint at institutionalism.

Given, with little time to even stop and catch her breath and less time to be a kid, it's remarkable she still ends up being exuberantly individualistic, taking whatever time she has left to learn and discover something new, and it's this non-conformist and resourcefully intellectual sense of self that puts her at odds with the more vacuous, angrier "cool kids" in her class.

Whether it be her innocently but repeatedly upstaging them in practically every class, her equally graceful ignorance of their tauntingly unctuous invitations or her modest, tomboyish apparel, she becomes the center of their unreasonably cruel string of pranks and lunch-hour hazing. They verge from the more emotionally harming (sarcastic physical mockery and some rather vile name-calling) to the more violent intrusions of personal safety (locking her in the bathroom and eviscerating her treasured bike), all of which strike the earnest, usually attentive school officials and Merel's parents as alarmingly unforeseen.

In turns out that her only sense of comfort is in an English-speaking train-stop acquaintance, whose perpetual smile earns her trust, but it's ultimately his soft-spoken wisdom and the universal lessons that casually nurture her through their brief but enriching encounters. A lesser director might have him blanket a nefarious agenda, but he is ultimately Merel's eye of the hurricane, one to bolster both her self-esteem as well as her mental ascension from a precarious childhood mind to a woman with a firm grasp of herself and the people around her (as well as giving her the film's title nickname)

Ultimately, Merel (and the movie) comes to her character's pivotal crossroad, if she succumbs to peer pressure and compromises her individuality, or if she rejects the school's inanely shallow bullies and strives to draw friends who respect her special, richly defined persona.

"Bluebird" is, inevitably, a very conventional movie (it was previously an after-school special in the Netherlands before going to the big screen), but it's neither a stale or cynical one, just resoundingly pure. It squarely focuses on Merel's point-of-view (she's in every scene), and while it gives the movie perhaps a lop-sided feel when it deals with her interactions with the school bullies (they remain malevolent, and often indistinguishable; perhaps a true statement on the nature of bullying itself, but without any of their viewpoints, this particular aspect of "Bluebird" has a noticeable lack of dimension), it doesn't damper a movie still rich with keen, non-condescending insight on the often anxious and terrifying time of moving from the innocence of childhood to the self-defining responsibility of being a young adult.

And it's all superbly carried by the young Rotteveel, who here radiates a seamlessly endearing mix of a precocious sense of original taste and dependability as well as a youthfully sensitive vulnerability, especially when her tribulations, during and corresponding to the harsher interpersonal situations, can't be easily handled. Most movies would only dare to focus on one aspect to swiftly move the story along, but here Rotteveel deftly adds layers to her beleaguered but exceptional character, peeling each one to show her character's burgeoning maturity with a natural, impressive ease. Even with all the trials and hardships that befall upon Merel, Rotteveel's instincts, just like the simple but lovingly resonant charms of "Bluebird", are resiliently sound.

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