Half Nelson (2006)
Critic Consensus: Half Nelson features powerful performances from Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps. It's a wise, unsentimental portrait of lonely people at the crossroads.
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Critic Reviews for Half Nelson
Ryan Gosling's self-destructive teacher is easily the year's most mesmerizing character study. And he's hardly the only reason to see this film. Shareeka Epps anchors her scenes as Drey with a self-possession way beyond her years.
"Half Nelson" elegantly tiptoe around its elephant in the room: Dan's most compelling instruction to not let Drey enter the drug trade is his own destruction. That point of panic turns into something approaching penance.
The filmmakers bask disingenuously in their tidy vision of border-busting healing
Audience Reviews for Half Nelson
Gowanus, baby! That's my Brooklyn.
Sophisticated but somewhat hazy (existential-dialectic-liberal) look at the conflict and dis-integration of the personal and the political. Good premise, great performances, good intentions - but Half Nelson comes up a bit short storywise.
- the final scene reminded me of the one in the Graduate
.. and even if it is at times appropriate here, i still hate twitchy floaty zoomy handheld camera-work.
There's no doubt that Ryan Gosling achieves something special in this film, breaking out by playing a character who's incredibly vulnerable and broodingly volatile, but the supporting performance by Shareeka Epps shouldn't be discounted for a second either - her character is just so tough! I have to say that I found the ending abrupt, and that I was disappointed that it wasn't necessarily happy or sad, but this was a short watch that felt longer in a good way because it was so dramatic and well-acted by the two leads.
It's a refreshing deviation from the 'inspirational inner city teacher' cliche, and a decent exploration of morality. It has other good things going for it as well, especially the performances of Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie (more recently seen in The Adjustment Bureau). However, the film constantly tries to be political, and I would have to say that it fails in that regard, since it doesn't make a clear, fleshed-out argument. The random scenes of students explaining historical events only connect with the actual story on the broadest of levels, and they only really serve to take audiences out of that story. There's also the overuse of handheld camera shakiness, which helps to add a gritty realism at first points but becomes pretty annoying before too long. Still, "Half Nelson" succeeds in its depiction of troubled characters that actually feel troubled. From a directing and writing standpoint, the film outshines Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's more recent film "It's Kind of a Funny Story," a very, very different film that nonetheless highlights that the biggest problem of "Half Nelson" is that it takes itself too seriously.
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