Half-Nelson (2006)

Reid, 28. December 2007, 19:22

Dir. Ryan Fleck
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, etc.

Most of you would think this is a least an OK film, I would guess. I’d recommend this to Mitchell, not necessarily because he’d like this, but because of the genre.

I think I’m burned out on the whole teacher movie genre–a la Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, etc.–especially the white teacher that “saves” inner city kids. If you’re like me, Half-Nelson might be for you. Yes, the film is about a white teacher working with inner city kids, and, yes, this teacher has a good rapport with the kids, but that’s where the similiarity to other films in the genre stops.

The acting is fine and the characters, specifically Ryan Gosling as the teacher, Dan Dunne, and Shareeka Epps, as Drey, are instantly likeable. What’s interesting in this film is the flaws in the teacher.

However, like many other independent films, there are flaws that don’t make it totally satisfying. But like many independent films, I find it worth watching because the filmmakers are not simply following a formula for commercial reasons.

3 Responses to “Half-Nelson (2006)”

  1. pen

    As Mitchell has worked (or is continuing to work) his way through Paul Giamatti’s filmography, I find myself doing the same for Ryan Gosling after seeing The Notebook and Lars and the Real Girl recently.

    I’d say Gosling’s performance is one of the main reasons to see this film. He is likeable, even though he is deeply flawed, and does some very un-likeable things. His love for teaching and genuine care for his students shines though despite his self-destructive ways and this is what makes this film tragic.

    They young girl who plays Drey, Gosling’s student, is also her own force. Her relationship and struggles could come across as trite, but it does not, thanks to her ability and her relationship with her teacher.

    In fact, the relationships in this film seem very real and not contrived, although we have seen them before. The middle class concerned, but don’t really want to know the bad stuff going on in their kids’ lives parents. The young woman infatuated with her edgy co-worker. Caring teacher and struggling student. The performances of the actor and the writing make these relationships compelling and authentic.

  2. Reid

    Not sure what you mean when you call Drey’s relationship and struggles trite? (You mean cliched, as in “I’ve seen this in a zillion other films?”) The other reason to see this film is that it’s different take on the teacher-as-savior genre that seems so popular. Gosling is a good actor. I wouldn’t mind seeing United States of Leland, which seems to have a good cast. If you see it, let me know.

  3. pen

    I said Drey’s life could come across as trite. Formulaic. Same-o, same-o. Cliched. But the subtleness and authenticity of her acting transcends all that. The power in the relationship changed hands a few times between Drey and the Gosling’s character, which made things interesting, too.

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