HALF NELSON is a steadily paced, low-key movie from director Ryan Fleck. Given the subject matter, this flick could have easily become a syrupy melodrama, but it's understated, "fly on the wall" presentation helps the highly talented actors to weave their magic beautifully. This ain't MELODRAMA, this is REALISM.
The film is ostensibly about the relationship between crack addict history teacher DAN and his pupil DREY. Both of them lead troubled, uneasy lives and each feels a responsibilty for the other. Crucially, the magnificent performances of Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps serve to make each character sympathetic and very, very likeable. Gosling, in particular, is MAGNETIC in this movie.
HALF NELSON is a deeply absorbing character study and well worth a watch. It is a worthy examination of our vulnerability as human beings - the mistakes we constantly make and the people we inadvertently hurt as a result. Above all, it highlights our compassionate nature and our innate ability to care for one another. This is one of those movies whereby you finish watching it and maybe resolve to become a better person!
As a final comment, I also feel compelled to say that the closing scene of this flick is near-perfect.
A thought-provoking, satisfying film. RECOMMENDED.