Shawn Palmquist’s review published on Letterboxd:
Valentine Road is an maddening look at the somewhat recent murder of Lawrence King in an Oxnard, CA middle school. The murder occurred after Lawrence (a 14 year old homosexual middle school student) asked another student to be his Valentine…the other student being so offended and embarrassed by the situation that the next day he brought a gun to school and shot him in the back of the head. The documentary focuses mostly on the aftermath of the situation and is absolutely damning though it tries its best to be even and objective.
The situation is absolutely tragic. The idea that someone can be so unable to handle the thought of homosexuality and being associated with it, that they would resort to murder, is hard to fathom. What’s even harder to fathom though, is how scores of parents, teachers, jurors, and defense attorneys would come to the aid of the murderer with some ridiculous notion that he had no other option than to murder another student. This even after we are shown Nazi propaganda drawn by the murderer and video of him in prison being a hell raiser and picking fights with random people. Seeing a defense attorney get a ‘Free Brandon’ tattoo…or a teacher at the school say ‘I understand why he did what he did’…wha wha what?
This may be one case in which the aftermath of a tragic situation is even more confounding than the situation itself. My mouth was agape for most of this documentary, especially when the trial of the murderer begins. If anything this documentary is worth a watch for the social insights it provides on a situation like this and how different people react. Overall, this is a well-made and complete look at the case and something I’d consider required viewing for anyone with kids in middle school/high school. Really exposes the inherent nastiness, bigotry, and homophobia that can come out of otherwise normal seeming adults when something like this happens. Faith in human kind…knocked down a few rungs.