Tony Kaye's "Detachment" is not the lecture I was expecting. It's an almost spiritual study of a system; a broken one, flawed (and as suggested) not inherently but by larger societal problems too broad and numerous to fully grasp or understand. It assesses these issues not with hope but with pitch black honesty. No solutions given but the disturbing thought that some things will never change. Kaye uses the phenomenal performance of Adrian Brody to ground us in the drama. We think at first this will be one man's story, but the narrative's concerns are much broader. This reminded me of "American History X," a masterpiece, also directed by Kaye. It showcases a career best performance (Ed Norton in that movie) in a character piece that isn't so much about a personal journey as it is a grand statement about a specific social problem that will continue to thrive with no end in sight. In "Detachment," Kaye's technique is equally experimental, in a story that's even less streamlined. Brody is definitely the star of the movie, but is not necessarily the focus. We are violently thrust into the lives of a myriad characters; unexpectedly and frantically at times. It could be argued that "Detachment" lacks focus to a fault, but I didn't feel this. Kaye's creation works as collage, similar to but not as extreme as Terrence Malick's take on WWII in "The Thin Red Line." As with "American History X," Kaye's stance is obvious and moment to moment scenes are a bit preachy, but none of this detracts from the established tone and eventual takeaway of this socially conscience, effortlessly powerful movie. The film's cold, apocalyptic final shots aptly conclude a bleak portrait. One that's relentlessly grim, sure, but a bold work of cinema that leaves a lot to ponder.
Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody) is a substitute teacher brought in to a struggling urban high school to teach English and work with kids who are performing at a very low grade. Being a substitute is exactly the way Henry likes it as he deliberately tries to avoid making genuine connections with people (and that includes his pupils). As time goes on, though, Mr. Barthes realises his pupils' needs for his input which forces him to confront his own demons and isolation.
"And never have I felt so deeply at one and the same time so detached from myself and so present in the world."
As the film opens, this is the quote from French philosopher Albert Camus, that's scribed onto a blackboard before we are introduced to the protagonist and the personal conflict he finds himself in. On the one hand, he's a caring individual but on the other, he deliberately keeps a distance from people as he's consumed by a guilt that doesn't belong to him. His detachment is also reflected in the frustrated and disillusioned pupils he teaches, making this a melting pot of emotionally dysfunctional people. It's this very mirroring in the individuals that make this quite a thought provoking character study, as well as a diatribe on the state of the American educational system and the problems therein.
Kaye shoots the film with an edgy, fly on the wall approach, utilising the shaky-cam technique and numerous close-ups that bring you closer to the characters and their inner turmoil. There's also the assembly of a very impressive cast, all-be-it, a lot of them are wasted in thankless, underwritten roles. The likes of Bryan Cranston, Blythe Danner and William Petersen needn't have turned up at all, but James Caan lightens the mood whenever he's onscreen and the young unknowns get a chance to shine instead; particularly (the director's daughter) Betty Kaye, who develops a crush on her teacher and Sami Gayle as a young prostitute who develops a similar infatuation. The real star, though, is a brooding and commanding Brody. He's rarely offscreen for the entirety of the film and even though it's no surprise that he delivers his usual reliability, he's especially good with a very powerful and charismatic performance. However, the cast and the impressive handling of the material can't save the film from being overly depressing, or when drawing to it's conclusion, descending into melodrama from which it never fully recovers.
Cut from the same cloth as the, Oscar nominated, Ryan Gosling movie "Half Nelson", director Tony Kaye delivers a good insight into the difficulties of teaching and the importance of instilling a good childhood and sense of self in our youth.
About the movie? I'm not really sure what the message is here. That life sucks and even the smallest effort to reach out to each other will bite you in the ass? Nice.
Great Film! Adrien Brody projects the right emotions at the right time in the movie. Sadness, happiness, joy and trauma, every feeling has its place in this movie. The use of real students and an existing school in combination with great filming gives the viewer the feeling its all real. A quality that makes a movie great.The beauty of this movie comes within the subtext, whether you can directly relate with the characters or not, the movie takes the message and widens its range so everyone is able to understand the actual meaning of the film. Let's clear things out, this film is not about a school or the basis of education, this is about trying our best not to give a damn about others as most of us just go around doing everything in our power to be happy ourselves with a lousy job, a loveless marriage, a constant sense of abandonment or basically a crappy life. Its pretty tough stuff seeing kids void of hope, interest or enthusiasm and teachers trying to get to the few who are still to be reached in the classroom. But its here where it all falls apart because of hollow politics, parents that do not care or are just as dysfunctional as the kids they raised and dropped into the public education system and idiotic social rules and conventions we are all used to. When you see the pattern in all the peoples private lives and their desperate tries of holding on its obvious that "Detachment" is not just about the public school system but about our whole society, about each and every one of us.
The movie inspired me. I'm a elementary school teacher and I see a lot of kids, sometimes heading in the wrong direction. It gave me a feeling of hope and drive to help these children, even if it seems hopeless. Go see it!
Detachment is a chronicle of three weeks in the lives of several high school teachers, administrators and students through the eyes of a substitute teacher named Henry Barthes. Henry roams from school to school, imparting modes of knowledge, but never staying long enough to form any semblance of sentient attachment. A perfect profession for one seeking to hide out in the open. One day Henry arrives at his next assignment. Upon his entry into this particular school, a secret world of emotion is awakened within him by three women. A girl named Meredith in his first period. A fellow teacher Ms. Madison, and a street hooker named Erica, whom Henry has personally granted brief shelter from the streets. Each one of these women, like Henry, are in a life and death struggle to find beauty in a seemingly vicious and loveless world.
This movie serves to remind all of us that good indie movies still exist
Detachment, is one of the best movies I have seen this year. Its complexity, and entirety remains truthful to the indie genre. It's experimental style, and depressing tone are not only touching but intriguing.
Henry Barthes (Brody) is a substitute teacher that drifts from classroom to classroom facing the problems of the children, and the problems of the teachers, when his own world is full of problems.
This is one of the most depressing films I have ever seen. However, it is done beautifuly through the eyes of Tony Kaye, just like American History X. His unique filmmaking style of experimenting with cameras and characters are truly remarkable.
Detachment is a movie that has much to offer: a perplexing story, a unique and original indie film, and wonderful performances.
In his unique style, Kaye uses this film to show the troubles and difficulties of our lifes, and the lifes of teachers and students, and how we are so detached from one another. He serves his purpose by using a experimental form of filmmaking where he uses a super 8 type of retro camera, a sketchy editing style, that reminds us how puzzling our lives are, and finally the decadency in the characters.
This is a very pessimistic film, it is sad from beggining to start, and it is not here to make you feel good, it is a movie that serves the purpose to remind us that our society is killing and education is killing us by preventing us to be have compasion for one another.
The acting in this movie is great. Brody shows us why he won an oscar in this movie. This to me is his most powerful performance, more than his great debut in The Pianist.
Personally I have much to say about this film, but can't put it in words. I am fanatic for both educational films, and indie films, hence I love this movie very much. Although it is highly depressing this movie leads us into great and deep thinking, and movies are supposed to do that, not only entertain. This movie is brilliant for its experimental style, of a fictional documentary.
Henry Barthes: "A faceless man in a classroom, is that how you see me?"
The story of a substitute teacher being sent to a school whose pupils have been written off has been done to death by now. We've seen the inspirational teacher plotline of "Dangerous Minds" and "To Sir, With Love" and the teacher versus students scenario of "Blackboard Jungle" and "187". Kaye gives us a fresh take, his students are unruly and threatening but Brody is indifferent to them. It's this indifference that ultimately leads him to bond with his pupils as like him, they are struggling to connect with the world around them.
Despite his outwardly cold facade, Brody is racked by a sense of responsibility to others. He visits his grandfather in hospital every day despite implications that the man's abuse lead to the suicide of Brody's mother. The same impulse leads to him taking a teenage prostitute into his care, brilliantly played by Judy Garland lookalike Gayle. Finally encountering someone who seems to genuinely care for her, she falls for him but it's a bond Brody is uncomfortable sharing. Also futilely seeking his affection is Betty Kaye (daughter of the director?), an overweight and emotionally vulnerable student who finds kinship with Brody's sad expression. These two storylines will break the heart of the most thick skinned of viewers.
The film is by no means perfect and would benefit from a much subtler approach than Kaye seems capable of but it's certainly affecting. At times acutely depressing, pretentious and anger-inducing, it eventually becomes an uplifting tale with a message that we may not always want people in our lives but ultimately we need them.
If that's old news, then you're in luck. DETACHMENT, while set in the same environment, feels new because it starts off the with premise that the education system is broken and then plunks a disaffected substitute teacher into the middle of it to shine a harsh light on how it affects us all. Adrien Brody is astonishing (perhaps even better here than he was in his Oscar winning role in THE PIANIST) as the embodiment of a primal scream. Like the Camus he quotes in the film, his character is living the existentialist nightmare of a man who knows everything is hopeless and feels he can't do a damned thing about it. Scene after scene, Brody is compelling, intense, and sad. When he lashes out at a hospital attendant who isn't properly caring for his ailing grandfather, you truly feel his pain and sense of longing for a time when competence was important to people. When he cries on a bus as a hooker services an old man in the back, he seems to be crying for all of humanity. His character just can't deal anymore with what's happened to the world.
Choosing a career where he can get in and get out without much emotional involvement, Brody's Henry Barthes presides over an uninterested, sometimes violent group of kids. DETACHMENT, however, isn't interested in the standard rehabilitation story arc. Instead, we're offered a slowly simmering series of vignettes, peeking into the desperate lives of his fellow faculty members, or following a student or two through their varied crises. Their performances are fantasic. Lucy Liu, as a harried Guidance Counselor, unleashes hell on a student in a scene that broke my heart. Christina Hendricks is a lost beacon of kindness, and evokes much sympathy in an otherwise underwritten role. James Caan and Marcia Gay Harden bring great conviction and humor, and Kaye's own daughter, Betty, brilliantly captures the loneliness and heartbreak of a student who never gets to have her good day.
One potential hiccup in the proceedings could have been the TAXI DRIVER detour this film takes when Brody meets a teenage prostitute and takes her into his life. The storyline is there to give us a sense that his character does want to connect with others and there is hope. It's pretty schematic stuff, but Sami Gayle brings such vivid rawness to the part, that you end of caring what happens here anyhow.
Kaye, service as his own Director of Photography, mostly gets it right, with a mix of black and white real teacher interviews, scary chalkboard animation, and a documentary approach to his coverage. I could have done without the fisheye lens perspective at times, as the subject matter is surreal enough without having to hit us over the head with it. A final series of images, however, redeem those choices, with a visceral and poetic interpretation of the decrepit wasteland schools have become. The score by the Newton Brothers deserves special mention, as it infuses the visuals and the great performances with such deep waves of emotion. Some people may hate the bitter attitude of this film, but I found it heartbreaking and filled with such a deeply rooted sense of tenderness and sadness over the loss we're all currently experiencing.
In a world where everything is spoon-fed to us, DETACHMENT is a sad, elegiac memory piece for a time where we used to have minds of our own. It's not entirely without hope, but Kaye's strong visual sense, his cast's power, and Carl Lund's angry script is shaking us and telling us to get our heads out of our asses NOW. It's a work of art.
It is Adrien Brodyâ(TM)s performance that elevates the film to such an effective and moving level. Itâ(TM)s certainly his best performance since The Pianist, he inhibits his role completely, conveying depression, emptiness, and regret with every expression, every gesture. His work is the most unforgettable part of the film. He gives the film its authenticity, itâ(TM)s soul, itâ(TM)s identify.
The supporting performances are also strong, and uniquely portrayed by each actor. The smart script helps, with a good blend of intelligently written dialogue, characterization, and commentary. The emphasis is not so much on the system itself, rather the individuals actors within that system, and the hopeless and tragic cycle that is simultaneously the cause and a symptom of it.
From a technical standpoint, itâ(TM)s directed well, with good framing and a methodical pace. My only significant criticism of the film is the sometimes over-indulgent editing techniques, which sometimes distract from the scenes, with constant shifting.
Overall, itâ(TM)s a memorable, thought provoking, look at the educational system, society, and the internal struggles we all deal with.
Okay, first and foremost, allow me to at least give this film credit for really telling you what you're in for in the opening credits alone, and by that, I don't just mean that the opening montage of teacher interviews that explore very little tell you just how underdeveloped this film is going to be; I mean that they're showing you how they're going to film everything. Now, in all honesty, the lighting of the film is pretty sharp, yet when it comes to camerawork, there's very little intimacy and that takes a pretty major blow to the resonance in a deal of parts, which is something that you can say about a lot of films plagued by shaky cam, but this is too much, as the film is filled with many shots that are either overly shaky or terribly staged. Now, you think when I did that opening joke, I was saying that the camera is just close enough in Adrien Brody's face that you can see his messy teeth, but really, they all but actually stuck the camera between his lips, because there are plenty of shots that are so ridiculously exaggerated, and while there are more than enough shots that are comfortable enough for you to just kind of go with the film, it will hit those points where all of the broadness and organic flow of the film goes dead, which isn't to say that the camera is the only exaggerated thing in this film that hurts its ability to earn your investment. Now, I hate teenagers with a glowingly white hot, fiery passion and think that just about most of them are about as blunt as the bricks they have they have the common sense of, and while most of the teens featured in this film are a little bit worse than your usual pack of stupid kids, they still seem rather exaggerated and difficult to attach to as down-to-earth humans, which isn't to say that they're the only ones, because most everyone in this film is written to be so insanely over-the-top, that you just can't buy into it at a lot of points, yet the film's bloating and failure to fully nail its intentions doesn't stop there. I'm particularly upset with this film when I look at what is Tony Kaye's first and easily most notable accomplishment: "American History X", which was brilliant in how it explored such touchy, yet wrongfully overlooked and unfortunately very correct issues while subtley showing you where the line into extremism is drawn and realistically portraying how even those considered the key part of the problem are, in fact, suffering from the issue, but here, this film is going to opposite route and suspending most of the humanity and sparing on the details while feeling forceful in delivering its underexplored messages. What we're looking at is an unrelentingly bleak film that could have enthralled you and left you with much to chew on, yet as it stands, it's an overbearing, overstylized and overly exaggerated film that launches itself so far out of earth and doesn't even have enough meditation on its intentions to help pull it back down. However, although it's hard to fully cling onto this film, it's also hard to live up to the title of the film and find yourself fully detached, for although the film is wildly exaggerated, there's no denying that there aren't some aspects keeping you compelled.
Now, the film hits many lows, yet you can always rely on this major thing to keep pulling you back in: Amusement, because everything is hilariously over-the-top and overstylized that you can't help but laugh. ...No, I'm not kidding; one of the main things that might keep you going through the film is the desire to see just what insanely ridiculous thing they will happen next. Now, that right there is a defining mark of a terrible drama, and yet, this film isn't even mediocre. It's a mess, to be sure, being so ridiculous that it's unrelenting rants ring false, more often than not, but when a signal does get through, you're won over and enthralled, because Tony Kaye, while incapable to turning a sloppy script into something as brilliant as "American History X", still knows how to boast the truth, and when this film does hit those glowing moments, as it does reasonably often enough, it really leaves you thinking, particularly when we hit that heavy, provocative and, well, pretty darn magnificent ending. For that, let us not only give it up to Mr. Kaye, but give it up to the performers, none of whom are terribly upstanding, yet they all play their parts and as, well, relatively down-to-earth as possible. I don't even know if Detroit is this absurd, but there are people like these out there; they're rarely to this degree of ridiculous, but they do exist, nevertheless, and our performers play them well enough, with some glowing moments of particularly phenomenal acting, to further grasp your attention, particularly Adrien Brody, who fails to disappoint, yet again. Now, don't get me wrong, he's not even given enough material to be terribly excellent, let alone as masterful as he was in the recent "Wrecked" or his big breakout, "The Pianist" (Seriously Marlow Stern, congrats on getting quoted for the ad campaigns, but calm down), but his portrayal of this man looking to save both others and, to some extents, himself is still thoroughly charismatic and very compelling, drawing you in every time he graces the screen with his presence, and while he's not quite stealing the show like he so very much did in "Midnight in Paris" (Best cameo of the year, and he would have gotten Best Supporting, as well as Best Lead (for "Wrecked"; I'm sorry y'all weren't terribly crazy about the film, but he was earth-shattering in that) from me if he had showed up for more than just "one" scene (Yeah, great job of letting one of the best things in that film slip away, Woody Allen) (That's right, I just pulled three sub-parenthesis within a parentheses)), he keeps this mess of a film going more than anyone.
At the end of this seemingly endless lesson, if the film gets way exaggerated for its own good, not just when it comes to style, but when it comes to subject matter, as it is so over-the-top, unrelenting and only slightly informative that its good intentions don't always deliver as sharply as they should, yet when Tony Kaye actually pinpoints an informative and provocative piece of meditation within Carl Lund's spotty screenplay, he strikes with his usual burst of provocative skill to break up the messiness within the film, which is already kept going by, if nothing else, across-the-board strong performances, with Adrien Brody charismatically and compellingly leading the way in order to make "Detachment" the generally enjoyable, often fascinating and occasionally genuinely effective study on the loss of innocence.
2.5/5 - Fair
His intentions are generally good but the execution is all over the place.
Detachment is affecting, raw, angry, has something relevant to say but most of the times, doesn't know how to. There's tremendous detail on the lead character and on some of his manerisms, courtesy of an inspired script and another winning performance from Brody. Some secondary characters are only around for a while but cause a big impact while others I just didn't understood why they were there in the first place (Bryan Cranston, it's always a pleasure to see you, but what were you doing here exacly?)
The episodic editing sometimes is great, others it's repetitive, others is nauseating with an avalanche of 8mm hipster footage of a lost childhood. The chalk animations sometimes work but most of the times don't. The interviews... errrr, could've been avoided but Brody is excellent in them and so on and so on.
Knows exacly what it's saying and it's a tricky thread and topic to walk around but the execution leaves much to be desired. Too many hipsterisms going on. A simpler, more classical approach to a very complex topic should've been the way to go but it's still a very engaging and brutal ride that everyone should see and learn something from it in the process.