You've been there. The cruel world of adolescence. And you've also seen this world depicted on movies. Usually melodramatized. But not on Elephant, Gus van Sant's movie inspired by the Columbine shootings.
The movie presents one "normal" day at school as we follow students through their routine. The camera switches from one student to the other and sometimes comes back to the same encounter through another angle, following someone else.
There is John, son of an alcoholic. There is a young couple. There are three girls and the throwing up after lunch looking so banal. There is a photographer trying to make sense of the images around him. And there are two young friends, one plays fairly well the piano, the other plays a violent shooting game, and they have big plans for that day.
We can see it coming slowly. After breakfast the boys receive an automatic weapon from mail and get ready for the shootings. While one of them is taking shower, the other joins him and they kiss.
John is leaving school and crosses his fellow students in shooting apparel. He understands something is bound to happen and tries to dissuade people from entering the school. Not much can be done at this point, and the two boys will go on with the killing. One of them will kill the other and we are left with the remaining killer choosing between the couple, who's the next victim.