Review: Half Nelson

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  August 11, 2006 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

Ryan Gosling, most famous for starring in The Notebook, stars as Dan Dunne, an inner-city junior high school teacher whose drug habits are uncovered by one of his students, thirteen-year-old Drey (Shareeka Epps). An unlikely bond grows between these two as the film shows life in the inner-city from both of their perspectives.

In the film, Drey has two male role models in her life and neither are her absentee father. But who is the model she should look to? The first is her "junkie" teacher/coach and the second is Frank (Anthony Mackie), the adult friend of her convicted brother who happens to be the drug pusher of the neighborhood. For me, as the film went on, I kept debating to myself who is the stronger role model for this young girl. Both had their good points but when it comes down to it, who is a better role model, the pusher or the user?

Half Nelson isn't a film for everyone. It's one of those films that tries to answer questions by bringing the audience into that world. What disappointed me about the film is that it never answers anything but just keeps going and going. The frequent drug use and disaster of a life that the main character endures is never examined or addressed. Can a drug addict who does as much stuff in this film as the character does really function enough to endure a somewhat normal life? I find that doubtful.

What is amazing is that you have an active drug user teaching small children and no one says anything? Does this actually happen today? If so, why aren't teachers subjected to random drug tests? They should be if they are to be around our children.

Half Nelson made me think about a lot of issues but like so many indie films I have grown frustrated with, the film never reaches a conclusion or even tries to. I know these are "Thinkfilms", but let's stop thinking and start solving. Nuff said. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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