Half Nelson (2006) - Rotten Tomatoes

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.

Movie Info

Dan Dunne is an idealistic inner-city junior high school teacher. Although he can get it together in the classroom, he spends his time outside school on the edge of consciousness. He juggles his hangovers and his homework, keeping his lives precariously separated, until one of his troubled students, Drey, catches him in a compromising situation. From this awkward beginning, Dan and Drey stumble into an unexpected friendship that threatens either to undo them, or to provide the vital change they both need to move forward in their lives.more
Rating: R (for drug content throughout, language and some sexuality)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 24, 2007
Box Office: $2.6M
ThinkFilm - Official Site


Ryan Gosling
as Dan Dunne
Nathan Corbet
as Terrence
Deborah Rush
as Jo Dunne
Jay O Sanders
as Russ Dunne
Bryce Silver
as Bernard
Susan Kerner
as Motel Slow Dancer
Adepero Oduye
as Woman in Motel Room
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Half Nelson

Critic Reviews for Half Nelson

All Critics (156) | Top Critics (39)

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.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Top Critic

A fantastic merging of talents into a pure piece of art...

Full Review… | April 12, 2014
Cinema Crazed

Indie inner-city drama with drug-addict teacher.

Full Review… | December 15, 2010
Common Sense Media

"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.

Full Review… | September 24, 2010

The filmmakers bask disingenuously in their tidy vision of border-busting healing

Full Review… | August 30, 2009

A sometimes subtle, sometimes bombastic (Gosling's performance ranges from brilliant to bug-eyed) parable about class, race, power, and the dialectics of family relationships.

Full Review… | April 23, 2009
Boston Phoenix

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.

Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer


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.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

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.

Sam Barnett
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

Half Nelson Quotes

Dan Dunne: The whole-the whole education system is part of the machine.
– Submitted by Vishal V (2 years ago)
Dan Dunne: The only constant is change.
– Submitted by Enrica C (4 years ago)
Dan Dunne: One thing doesn't make a man.
– Submitted by Nastassia J (4 years ago)
Dan Dunne: Change moves in spirals, not circles. For example, the sun goes up and then it goes down. But everytime that happens, what do you get? You get a new day. You get a new one. When you breathe, you inhale and you exhale, but every single time that you do that you're a little bit different then the one before. We're always changing. And its important to know that there are some changes you can't control and that there are others you can.
– Submitted by Chris P (5 years ago)

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