Customer Reviews for

Half Nelson

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    When Less is More

    HALF NELSON is one of those rare breed of films that takes a unique idea, wraps it in an intelligent script, finds the perfect actors to bring the story to life, and does it all on a minimal budget that goes for the jugular rather than the glitz of promotion. It is a little miracle of a movie. Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling in a breakout performance) is an idealistic, fervent teacher recently graduated from college with a profound desire to make things different - in education and in the world. He is assigned to a junior high school in the ghetto where he is one of the rare white teachers for a black and Hispanic population: the principal is a hardnosed black lady who has rigid rules about curriculum and tutorial techniques. Dunne teaches his own way, involving his students in understanding rather than memorizing history. He is committed to his ideals but his technique is very student friendly and his class respects his demeanor. Very subtly he draws out the significance of important historical events, allowing the students to embrace the essence of civil rights rather than the rhetoric of the usual classroom approach. Dunne has a problem: he has learned to temper his frustrations and ambitions by escaping into drugs and he uses cocaine to soften his world. The 'crisis' of the story is the juncture when his brightest student Drey (Shareeka Epps in a stunning performance) discovers Dunne's secret when she catches him smoking crack in the very gym where Dunne is coaching an all-girl basketball team. With minimal words and maximal eye contact and tacit understanding Dunne and Drey bond. Drey is lonely: her brother is in prison for dealing drugs, her mother is works double time as a security officer to support them, and her brother's friend Frank (Anthony Mackie) coerces Drey into delivering drugs to his clients. How the bond between Dunne and Drey plays is the message of the film. This is not a physical love relationship but a sensitive fulfillment of needs between two bright people on the cusp of society's flaws. Ryan Fleck directs this film with the most subtle and sensitive technique, allowing us to view the flaws as well as the virtues of his characters. The script written by both Fleck and Anna Boden is creative in the classroom communication and minimal in the interplay outside the classroom, allowing the words to be superceded by eye messages and silence that is deafening. Gosling and Epps are brilliant in their ability to keep their characters credible, never opting for histrionics, always choosing to underplay potentially volatile scenes. The supporting cast is equally fine with the majority of the actors being in their first film and the others are solid professionals from previous quiet films. HALF NELSON is a wholly successful accomplishment, a film whose value will grow through repeated viewings and with history of cinema. Grady Harp

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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