Half Nelson

2007-10-29 17:49
What it's about:

Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is a popular teacher and basketball coach at a poor inner city school. His enthusiasm and unconventional teaching methods connect with students, but he cannot cope with the turmoil of his own life – an addiction to crack and dealing with a world that doesn't care about his deep seated beliefs. After being caught using cocaine, he develops a friendship with one of his students Drey (Shareeka Epps), whose brother is serving time for dealing. Dan can see Drey may end up on the same path and tries his utmost to help her change, while battling his own demons.

What we thought of it:

The premise of Half Nelson could have led to it being an extremely clichéd "triumph of the human spirit" type film suited to the Hallmark channel. Thankfully writer/director Ryan Fleck artfully dodges nauseating sentimentality to deliver a very believable and touching film that conveys convincing real life battles.

From the outset, the film belongs to Ryan Gosling, whose troubled teacher Dan is a mess of contradictions, unable to find the strength or the direction to turn his life around. Gosling goes through an amazing number of moods and situations while maintaining character. Given that the rest of the cast are excellent, this is really one for drama fans.

The relationship between Dan and Drey is the core of the story, and for most part it is a rather sombre affair, with a generous dose of misery for each spark of joy. Dan's inability to achieve change and his frustration are played out repeatedly, as in one poignant scene in which he vainly tries to convince a local drug dealer to stay away from Drey, only to join the man for drinks. As depressing as this sounds, it is clear there are solutions to Dan's troubles – if only he managed to look in the right places – giving the film a much needed silver lining.

Despite the heavy subject matter, Half Nelson is an enjoyable watch, and a top notch drama. Even the soundtrack by the aptly named Broken Social Scene manages to add to the mood with a mix between morose ambience and even more morose indie.

If you are looking for something to sink your teeth into, then it is highly recommended.

- Ivan Sadler
A teacher with a drug problem connects with one of his students, forming a bond that could help them both out of their grim urban situation.

jonathan 2007/08/24 7:41 AM
medical practicioner Yes , and really bad .... as a doctor the availabaliy of drugs like morphine,pethidine, Rohypnol,bensodeasepines etc. is like picking oranges.Mix with alcohol and a deadly coctail ensues....
Tim 2007/08/24 9:52 AM
Brilliant, subtle story and performance This is one of the few, if not the only films ever made about a functional addict - a chronic drug user on the borderline between being an ordinary member of society and the drop-out bogeyman we are usually treated to in films made about drug users. Gosling puts in an amazing performance as a conflicted, confused man whose intentions are good and behaviour is bad. The scene where he warns the drug dealer away from Drey highlights his inability to see himself as a similarly bad influence. Clever storytelling and great filmmaking.
moses 2007/08/25 11:29 AM
love i can't help it
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