• R, 1 hr. 27 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Ryan Fleck
    In Theaters:
    Aug 11, 2006 Wide
    On DVD:
    Apr 24, 2007
  • ThinkFilm


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Half Nelson Reviews

Bob Mondello
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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 Source: NPR.org

October 18, 2008
Dave Calhoun
Time Out
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Gosling and Epps, an unusual but effective pairing, show real commitment in their performances.

Full Review Source: Time Out

October 30, 2006
Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
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The movie comes down to Gosling's spot-on performance and how we feel about it.

Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel | Original Score: 4/5

October 20, 2006
Andrew O'Hehir
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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.

Full Review Source: Salon.com

October 7, 2006
Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
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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.

Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press | Original Score: 3/4

October 6, 2006
Bob Longino
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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For a solid 107 minutes, Gosling shapes his character into a flesh-and-blood tone poem.

Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Original Score: A-

September 21, 2006
Amy Biancolli
Houston Chronicle
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It'll be weeks before I shake off [Gosling's] performance -- or the shadows of this small, extraordinary narrative-feature debut from filmmaking partners Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden.

Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle | Original Score: 4/4

September 15, 2006
Michael Booth
Denver Post
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The tone is even and thorough, the performances restrained and believable, the implied future bleak yet somehow satisfying.

Full Review Source: Denver Post | Original Score: 3/4

September 15, 2006
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader
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One might also argue that a crack addict couldn't be responsible enough to be a good teacher, but he's the most believable protagonist in any American movie I've seen this year.

Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Original Score: 4/4

September 15, 2006
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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Ryan Gosling is electrifying in the role, delivering a performance that is sure to catapult him into the front ranks of stardom.

| Original Score: 3.5/4

September 14, 2006
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
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A wholly absorbing and delicately shaded portrait of an educator played by Ryan Gosling, a young man harboring an offstage secret.

Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune | Original Score: 3.5/4

September 14, 2006
Tom Keogh
Seattle Times
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In the endlessly surprising Half Nelson, all those upbeat, Hollywood clichés about well-meaning outsiders making a difference are turned on their heads.

Full Review Source: Seattle Times | Original Score: 3/4

September 8, 2006
Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Gosling anchors the picture, and Epps ... has a kind of grace, presence and knowingness that far more experienced actors struggle vainly to find.

| Original Score: 3/4

September 8, 2006
Ty Burr
Boston Globe
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Gritty and terrifically human, Half Nelson is not your big brother's Hollywood high school movie.

Full Review Source: Boston Globe | Original Score: 3.5/4

September 8, 2006
Richard Nilsen
Arizona Republic
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It's interested in how real people, not movie characters, might act in the situation. It is about all the gray areas, all the complexities, all the layers of meaning.

Full Review Source: Arizona Republic | Original Score: 4/5

September 7, 2006
Andrew Sarris
New York Observer
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The key to the direction of all the performances is tactful restraint and nuanced modulation.

Full Review Source: New York Observer

August 31, 2006
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
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Made with assurance, restraint and psychological acuity by director Ryan Fleck and anchored by Ryan Gosling's commanding performance, this paradigmatic American independent feature approaches recurring themes in a compelling new way.

Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times | Original Score: 5/5

August 26, 2006
Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
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Half Nelson gives the musty theme a full twist, and what emerges seems remarkably fresh. And yet mature too.

Full Review Source: Globe and Mail | Original Score: 3/4

August 25, 2006
Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
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Nearly every scene rings with its own ragged truth.

Full Review Source: Washington Post

August 25, 2006
Geoff Pevere
Toronto Star
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Beneath the familiar veneer is a film of profound depths and churning undercurrents, and the result is a stark portrait of a world where nothing comes easy but just giving up.

Full Review Source: Toronto Star | Original Score: 3/4

August 25, 2006
Ruthe Stein
San Francisco Chronicle
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Gosling inhabits Dan with every feature of his face and particle of his body and soul.

Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle | Original Score: 3/4

August 25, 2006
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
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One of the main strengths of Half Nelson is the plainspoken way it conveys the miseries of its people.

Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor | Original Score: B+

August 25, 2006
Scott Foundas
L.A. Weekly
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It all feels uncomfortably real, because we've known someone just like this, or maybe been him ourselves.

Full Review Source: L.A. Weekly

August 24, 2006
Claudia Puig
USA Today
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A compelling drama that establishes Ryan Gosling as one of the finest actors of his generation.

Full Review Source: USA Today | Original Score: 3.5/4

August 18, 2006
Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
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You're going to have to look for it. But please look for this movie.

Full Review Source: Ebert & Roeper

August 14, 2006
Dana Stevens
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This is a film that knows something about how hope, when it comes, is always a surprise.

Full Review Source: Slate

August 12, 2006
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
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Half Nelson certainly sees things in a new way. Unfortunately, it doesn't see them very clearly.

Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger | Original Score: 2/4

August 12, 2006
John Anderson
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Amid all the might-have-been cliches, director Ryan Fleck and his co-screenwriter, Anna Boden, give us a movie about history and destiny.

Full Review Source: Newsday | Original Score: 4/4

August 12, 2006
Kyle Smith
New York Post
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Mostly, we just watch the teacher get high, and his classroom talks about civil rights are nothing but filler.

| Original Score: 2/4

August 12, 2006
Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
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Ryan Fleck's Half Nelson is one of the most compelling and idea-laden American indie films to come along in a while, and it features one of this year's finest performances from Ryan Gosling.

Full Review Source: New York Daily News | Original Score: 3/4

August 12, 2006
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
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Half Nelson is that rarest of marvels: an American fiction film that wears its political heart on its sleeve.

| Original Score: 3.5/5

August 10, 2006
Scott Tobias
AV Club
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For director Ryan Fleck, co-writer/producer/editor Anna Boden, and their remarkable cast, the solution is to underplay every scene and let the central character's ambiguities set a rocky course for the movie to follow.

Full Review Source: AV Club | Original Score: A-

August 10, 2006
Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
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Half Nelson offers an opportunity to marvel, once again, at the dazzling talent of Ryan Gosling for playing young men as believable as they are psychologically trip-wired.

Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly | Original Score: A

August 9, 2006
Rob Nelson
Village Voice
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Half Nelson drags the crowd-pleasing white-teacher-inspires-black-students movie onto the mat and pins the flabby genre in the first round.

Full Review Source: Village Voice

August 8, 2006
David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
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Downbeat as it is, Half Nelson is a genuinely inspirational film -- a terrifically compelling character study and a tricky exploration of the links (and busted links) between the personal and the political.

Full Review Source: New York Magazine/Vulture

August 7, 2006
Rex Reed
New York Observer
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The scalding talents of the moody, introspective young actor Ryan Gosling are sharply focused in Half Nelson, elevating an otherwise slight and depressingly offbeat film high above the realm of the ordinary with blast-furnace force.

August 3, 2006
Dennis Lim
Village Voice
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Sardonic yet moving, Half Nelson deftly outlines the perils of youthful idealism without lapsing into knee-jerk cynicism.

Full Review Source: Village Voice

March 22, 2006
James Greenberg
Hollywood Reporter
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Ryan Gosling establishes himself as a major talent and one of the finest young actors around.

January 31, 2006
Dennis Harvey
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A terrific performance by Ryan GoslingRyan Gosling is the chief but hardly sole reason to embrace Half Nelson.

Full Review Source: Variety

January 24, 2006
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