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Half Nelson (2006)



Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 153
Fresh: 138 | Rotten: 15

Half Nelson features powerful performances from Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps. It's a wise, unsentimental portrait of lonely people at the crossroads.


Average Rating: 7.9/10
Critic Reviews: 38
Fresh: 36 | Rotten: 2

Half Nelson features powerful performances from Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps. It's a wise, unsentimental portrait of lonely people at the crossroads.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 54,908

My Rating

Movie Info

An inner-city teacher struggling with addiction forms an unlikely bond with a young student who catches him in a compromising position in director Ryan Fleck's feature-length adaptation of his own award-winning short film Gowanus, Brooklyn. Despite his dedication to the junior-high students who fill his classroom, idealistic teacher Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) leads a secret life that the majority of his students will never know. When Dunne's drug-soaked nightlife begins to bleed over into his



Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Apr 24, 2007


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All Critics (154) | Top Critics (38) | Fresh (138) | Rotten (15) | DVD (13)

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.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Gosling and Epps, an unusual but effective pairing, show real commitment in their performances.

October 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie comes down to Gosling's spot-on performance and how we feel about it.

October 20, 2006 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Gosling is indeed amazing as a bewildered, depressed New York schoolteacher who is slipping into dire drug addiction; it's exactly the kind of star turn in a smaller film that Academy voters could (and should) notice.

October 7, 2006 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Although the subject promises more than the film can deliver, there is compensation in Gosling's convincing, unromanticized portrayal of someone seeking escape from longing and loss that neither he nor the movie can really define.

October 6, 2006 Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For a solid 107 minutes, Gosling shapes his character into a flesh-and-blood tone poem.

September 21, 2006 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

April 12, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Indie inner-city drama with drug-addict teacher.

December 15, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
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.

September 24, 2010 Full Review Source:

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

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

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.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

The movie hits a stream of false notes when Dunne's students deliver oral reports on Civil Rights struggles that could only have been plagiarized. The film's ending isn't only meager, it's utterly listless.

April 22, 2009 Full Review Source:

Gosling is up for an Oscar (R) for his work in Half Nelson, and there's no question he earned the nomination.

August 23, 2008 Full Review Source:

Half Nelson trades melodrama for authenticity, cliche heroics for genuine heart, cheap cinematic parlor tricks for blessed restraint.

February 28, 2008 Full Review Source:

We've gotten so close to these characters (and they to each other) that we don't want to let them go.

July 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Big Picture Big Sound
Big Picture Big Sound

It is, in fact, a fine piece of work: reticent, intelligent, wholly devoid of triumphalism or self-pity.

April 28, 2007 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

It's hardly a film which trumpets its virtues but that's part of the pleasure to be had from it. It doesn't know how good it is.

April 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

While the students first mock Marxist dialectics and notions of oppression applied to the everyday, they are eventually eagerly embracing the rebellious spirit of Attica and Allende in class presentations that provide euphoric momentum.

April 22, 2007 Full Review Source: WBAI Web Radio
WBAI Web Radio

Looks to me like a self conscious film that thrives on its own negativity. Studied, anti-establishment, arthouse cinema that gloats over its moral superiority %u2013 which is rather ironic.

April 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

It's a thoughtful character study with Gosling simply tremendous as the functioning addict, who seems to use crack to anaesthetise him from his inability to form adult relationships.

April 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

A riveting study in dislocation and connection, hurt and healing, with Gosling revealed as potentially the most gifted actor of his generation.

April 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

It's impressively adult, sure-footed filmmaking, and that Best Actor nod was definitely deserved.

April 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Dunne [Gosling] is an enjoyable and impressive creation, justifiably recognised with an Oscar nomination for Gosling earlier this year.

April 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

It's the gritty script and sheer quality of the performances that distinguish this parable.

April 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

High ideals clash with Bush-era realities in this class debut - well balanced, wonderfully performed, and refreshingly free from cliche.

April 20, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

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.
July 29, 2007

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.
October 4, 2012

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.
April 19, 2012
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Deborah Rush, Jay O. Sanders, Nicole Vicius, Denis O'Hare, Tina Holmes

Director: Ryan Fleck

Summary: Transcending age and race, an improbable friendship between crack-addicted educator Dan Dunne (Oscar-nominated Ryan Gosling) and streetwise middle-schooler Drey (Shareeka Epps) may lead them to deliverance -- or destruction -- in this powerful urban drama. After Drey finds Dunne feeding his habit in a locker room, she becomes a conduit for a life-changing lesson. Gosling and Epps won Independent Spirit awards for their lead roles.

My Thoughts: "Another great performance by Ryan Gosling. The man is one of the best actors in films today. I really liked Shareeka Epps in this as well. She comes off as having a hard shell, but her emotions scream through it. Very talented girl. I feel like Dunne and Drey's teacher and student relationship being more then just that should bother me and feel a bit creepy. But it didn't. They are both lonely and looking for something to just help them get through their lives. It just felt like he was trying to help her and without him knowing it, she was helping him in the process. Great cast, acting, and directing. One of Gosling's best acting roles. The shakiness of the camera was a bit distracting for me at first, but bout an hour in I forgot to notice it. Besides that, I have no other complaints. The film was really one of Gosling's best."

Dan Dunne: "One thing doesn't make a man".
March 18, 2012

Super Reviewer

    1. Dan Dunne: The only constant is change.
    – Submitted by Enrica C (2 years ago)
    1. Dan Dunne: One thing doesn't make a man.
    – Submitted by Nastassia J (2 years ago)
    1. 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 (2 years ago)
    1. Dan Dunne: The sun goes up and then it comes down, but everytime that happens what do you get? You get a new day.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (4)

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