Saturday, March 3, 2007

Half Nelson (2006)

* * * *

There is nothing great about Half Nelson, but there's nothing wrong with it either. It is a dark, honest drama about a drug addict school teacher and a student he forms a close bond to. The film is very quiet with no pounding score to accentuate the emotional scenes and short, terse dialogue with quick cuts. Throughout the movie you get a sense that the director was trying to create a feel of reality with scenes that get right to the point without sugar coating. You aren't told when or what to feel, and the acting alone gets the point across. Ryan Gosling's performance as Dan Dunne was worthy of an Oscar nod (but not a win). His character is "getting clean" from past drug use but transforms from a teacher who dabbles with drugs at night to a man whose life is nearly destroyed by substances. Shareeka Epps more than holds her own as Drey, a student in Dunne's history class, and we will surely see her pop up in more films in the near future. She portrays a young girl trying to stay straight with a crack-addict teacher, a mother constantly getting the double shift, and neighborhood dealers trying to get her to run dope. It's the connection between Epps and Gosling which makes Half Nelson worthwhile. The film exposes the harsh reality of what can happen to someone who can't get loose from the hold drugs place on them. This is clearly an independent film that doesn't use any of the Hollywood cookie-cutter techniques to make a statement. This is both its flaw and its bright point, as general audiences may become bored at some points. Half Nelson isn't for everyone, but its honest illustration of drug addiction and its effects make it worth watching.

Good For: independent movie fans, people who like movies about the inner-city, someone interested in drugs

Bad For: people who get bored easily, crack-cocaine addicts

The Gallery
The Film Maker: * * * *

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