Friday, November 11, 2011

Half Nelson

Directed by Ryan Fleck.
2006. Rated R, 106 minutes.

Ryan Gosling
Shareeka Epps
Anthony Mackie
Jeff Lima
Nathan Corbett
Eleanor Hutchins
Tristan Wilds
Tina Holmes

Dan Dunne (Gosling) is a junior-high teacher struggling with drug-addiction and a newly-formed bond he has with Drey. She is one of his students who has her own troubled life and who accidentally sees her teacher/basketball coach Mr. Dunne getting high one night. This is about as far-removed from the normal teacher-saves-ghetto youth tale as you can get. The teacher in question tries to be that guy, but for obvious reasons can't. There's no magical tear-jerker or stand-up and cheer moments. It just trains an eye on these people and doesn't blink. What it becomes is an exhibition of people who perceive right or wrong based on their own circumstances. Since their circumstances, perception of those circumstances and whether "right" will be advantageous to them changes, how they feel about right or wrong also changes. Gosling is outstanding in the lead and Mackie is intriguing as a low-key neighborhood drug-dealer who is not your typical Hollywood thoroughly evil, flamboyant kingpin. He's just a guy who happens to have a somewhat dominant, but never over-the-top, personality and a skewed set of morals. Epps, as the little-girl caught in the middle, handles things with the believable non-chalantness of a 13 year-old but you sense there's some complicated things going on inside of her. When it’s all said and done, its a well-done movie that refuses to sugar-coat things. However, that also makes it a rather depressing experience. This is not one to watch if you're suicidal, easily upset or are planning a fun movie night at the house.

MY SCORE: 9/10

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