Half Nelson  [DVD]
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Dan Dunne (Gosling) is an inner city high school teacher. Dynamic and inspirational in the classroom, he spends his time outside of school on the edge of consciousness. His personal disappointments and disillusionment have led to a serious drug habit. Dan juggles his hangovers and his homework, keeping his lives separated, until one of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), catches him getting high after school. It is from this pivotal moment that director Ryan Fleck builds a tentative friendship between these two unlikely allies, creating one of the year s most arresting films in the process.
Sometimes people are attracted to each other because of their differences. When there's a nebulous attraction between a teacher and a young teenage child--as in the superb Half Nelson--the relationship has all the makings of confused disaster. Though there are a few uncomfortable moments when it's not obvious whether Dan (Ryan Gosling) and Drey (Shareeka Epps) might cross the line, the attraction between the pair is culled less from sexual tension than desperation. Dan is an idealistic history teacher in an inner-city school. Drey is one of his brightest students.
For both, drugs represent something that may help them escape their worlds. He takes drugs to dull his dissatisfaction with himself. She views drugs as a possible way to better her life, even though she knows her brother's foray into that trade landed him in jail. Bleakly filmed and well told, Half Nelson soars because of the immaculate acting by Gosling and Epps. With his impish smile, Gosling provides a character that is at once disarming, alluring, and pitiful. As the young girl who's already seen too much hardship in her life, Epps plays her part with just the right amount of hardened raw emotion. While the ambiguous ending may not please fans weaned on happy Hollywood finales, it's a fitting and believable close to a thought-provoking film. --Jae-Ha KimSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Early in the film he is found in a locker room cubicle high on crack by one of his students Drey, and a tacit understanding is reached between them. She, whose brother has been incarcerated from involvement in the drug trade, can see how crack is devestating her community, but is still allured by the success of 'Frank', a drug dealing "family friend". Frank gradually enrolls her in his business; drugs providing her with a potential but probably ephemeral means of escape from the squalor of her broken home. For Dan, the escape is from the burden of completing his book, and from turning his political ideals into affirmative action. His inertia and drug-addled stupour are shown in contrast to footage of highly impassioned speeches from the civil rights movement, calling on people to throw themselves down on the machinery of the system to grind it to a halt. Decades after the civil rights movement, many people in the black community are still caught up in the prison system, or denied opportunities to further themselves socially; but Dan is increasingly aware how little he can do about it. His classes on the dialectics of change through opposition, start to sound hollow when there is so little hope for his students.Read more ›
Despite Gosling's inability to relate to the people that try and get on with him who are not directly involved in his life, he comes across as a simple but effective man but with hidden side-issues on what kind of world he is living in. He gets through any emotive negative within him by being truthful to himself and witty with others.
The film flows smoothly and without any preudice towards generic charachters and the music is unique and fitting. All the supporting players do a great job especially the drug-pimp(probably the nicest dealer portrayed in films) but theres the point of the film, do not take people on face-value or even the things they do to make money or get-by because there is a deeper meaning to what these characters are trying to achieve.
A film i could relate to and i especially like the scene where Gosling gets asked by his 'over-night guest' in the morning "Why do you have a copy of the mien kampf?" and he answers with a slightly cold but reasonable answer of "Just because i have a copy of that book, it doesnt make me a nazi". Theres something odd yet distinctive about the way he looks at life and the surprises with in his own. Its not till the end that Gosling's character realises its time to believe in not just his own thoughts but of those around him...and more importantly kick the habit..because although its an easy to get into and difficult slippery slide to hide your irresponsibilty, its a route that must be declined!
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Ryan gosling fan in the house!
The film is definitely for the indie film lovers. Great story line.
Good performance Bryan gosling, but one of the most tediously boring films I've ever seen.Published 11 months ago by Andrew toole
Ryan Gosling never disappoints - fascinating original performance - great supporting cast and very deep message.Published 12 months ago by Shackey