Half Nelson (2006) Review
Dan Dunne is an inner city junior high school history teacher who has a pretty bad drug problem. Everything is about to take a different turn when one of his students, Drey finds out about the problem and a friendship between the pair is formed.
I have tried to watch this film a few times now and never fully given it a chance but with all of the hype surrounding Ryan Gosling at the moment (and I am a big fan) I thought I would really persist with this one from start to finish. He really does put in such an incredible performance as Dan, something very special. Shareeka Epps was outstanding alongside him as well, a truly brilliant performance from such a young actress in this pretty hard-hitting film.
I think the fact that he is a teacher and coach for the basketball team you don’t really expect drugs to ever be an issue. I know you shouldn’t judge who that type of thing affects but I really do think that is something that makes the film more shocking. Especially when he cannot control anything about it and he is teaching the following the day. The worst part about Dan was that he actually thought he now had it under full control, which couldn’t be further away from the truth.
Drey is trying to adapt with life without her brother and a mother who works constantly, so she is by herself most of the time. With Frank slowly trying to get her involved in his drug dealing as well, even though he actually comes across as a pretty nice guy. Another great performance in the film from Anthony Mackie! It really is filled with so many brilliant performances.
When we get towards the end of the film you just feel that something really bad or worse is going to happen all of the time. It sets it up so you constantly feel on edge wondering what mistake Dan is going to make next. The worst thing is though he does have some people asking him if he needs help, fellow teachers who can sense something is not quite right. He is well like and received by his students as well, who really do listen and learn from everything he has been teaching them. I really thought a defining moment for that had to be a parent of a former student speaking to him in a bar that his daughter is now in college studying history.
It tackles the issue not only of someone taking drugs but how youngster can be sucked into the world of drug dealing. The school he works in is primarily black and hispanic population and he deviates from the curriculum he is supposed to be teaching to really try to make a difference and help the kids. It is clear no matter how bad his personal problems were getting that he really does love teaching. He just really did need help and someone to step in before something extremely bad was the end result.
I think this was probably a breakthrough performance for Gosling in terms of really showing what he could do, as he did receive an Oscar Nomination for his performance and it really is one to catch up with if you haven’t already seen this film.