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Half Nelson

Half Nelson

4.3 4
Director: Ryan Fleck

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie

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


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 daytime hours and troubled student Drey (Shareeka Epps) makes a startling discovery, the tenuous bond that forms between the pair soon leads to a warm friendship that could either lead them down a dangerous path or provide the human companionship needed to see things from a fresh perspective and start life anew.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
In this gritty, sharply written urban drama, Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling), an unconventional Brooklyn middle school teacher who bucks the academic system while connecting with his students, has a serious problem with alcohol and drug dependency. One of his charges, Drey (Shareeka Epps), discovers Dunne’s secret and tries to help, notwithstanding considerable domestic troubles of her own. Half Nelson neatly sidesteps the typical narrative pitfalls of films about inspirational teachers and inner-city teens, benefiting enormously from the highly acclaimed performance of Oscar nominee Gosling (best known for the romantic Notebook) and some marvelously understated acting by Epps. The recipient of critical raves and numerous film festival awards prior to its limited theatrical release, this richly textured adult drama will be remembered when many of the overly hyped hits of its era are long forgotten.
All Movie Guide
Ever since Blackboard Jungle, there has periodically appeared in American movies the story of a headstrong teacher taking on an inner-city school and whipping his or her students into shape, employing either militaristic tough love or a mushy appeal to the delinquents' artistic hearts. Half Nelson can't help but recall some of the more questionable "white savior saves black kids" elements of the genre in its story of an earnest, idealistic young man, Dan (Ryan Gosling), coaching basketball and teaching history and civil rights in a free-range style that chafes against the strict core curriculum of his New York City middle school. The movie quickly shatters the idealism of its hero with the murky truths of reality: Dan is a crack addict ideologically leaning on an untenable brand of '60s liberalism. However, simply subverting stereotypes does not guarantee emotional depth or thematic complexity. The film's source of power lies in the budding relationship between Dan and Drey (Shareeka Epps), a bright student from dismal circumstances. Drey is entering a critical crux in her life, when the emotional confusion of budding puberty could easily spin into the downward spiral that sent her older brother to jail for drug dealing. After Drey discovers Dan passed out in a school bathroom, their friendship develops within the uncertain confines of student/teacher and child/adult as they both try to save each other. The directing and writing by Ryan Fleck and superb naturalistic performances by Gosling and Epps captures the subtle push and pull of two damaged, needy, and intelligent young adults looking for the emotional bonds -- of friends, parents, and siblings -- they can't find from their outside social environment. Half Nelson is touching without being mawkish, morbid, or unrealistically uplifting; the title could refer to the way Dan and Drey compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses or the wrestling-grip hold their personal demons have on their psyches.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Outtakes; Deleted & extended scenes; Filmmaker commentary; Rhymefest "Wanted" music video; Special features not rated or closed captioned.

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ryan Gosling Dan Dunne
Shareeka Epps Drey
Anthony Mackie Frank
Tina Holmes Rachel
Jay O. Sanders Russ
Denis O'Hare Actor
Nicole Vicius Cindy
Deborah Rush Jo
Monique Curnen Isabel
Starla Benford Actor
Karen Chilton Karen
Collins Pennie Mike
Sebastian Sozzi Javier

Technical Credits
Ryan Fleck Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Eyde Belasco Casting
Erin Benach Costumes/Costume Designer
Doug Bernheim Musical Direction/Supervision
Anna Boden Editor,Producer,Screenwriter
Broken Social Scene Score Composer
Mariela Comitini Asst. Director
Charlie Corwin Executive Producer
Doug Dey Executive Producer
Tom Efinger Sound/Sound Designer
Hunter Gray Associate Producer
Lynette Howell Producer
Rosanne Korenberg Producer
Scott London Executive Producer
Clara Markowicz Executive Producer
Paul S. Mezey Executive Producer
Beth Mickle Art Director,Production Designer
Alex Orlovsky Producer
Andrij Parekh Cinematographer
Jamie Patricof Producer
Jeremy Kipp Walker Co-producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Half Nelson
1. Opening Sequence [3:59]
2. Basketball Practice [3:41]
3. The Other Thing [3:26]
4. Good to See You [2:28]
5. Girl's Locker Room [5:27]
6. Skipping Class [4:48]
7. Turning Point [4:05]
8. Nice Cap [3:50]
9. Rough Morning [4:33]
10. The Machine [3:07]
11. Engaged [6:00]
12. A Good Day [2:50]
13. Always Changing [3:12]
14. Some Candy [3:47]
15. Hard to Like [4:53]
16. A Communist? [4:44]
17. History Major [3:30]
18. That's My Bike [5:31]
19. Late Night Visit [4:29]
20. Cheating [2:04]
21. Here For You [4:58]
22. Scary Things [3:13]
23. Good With the Kids [3:41]
24. Motel Delivery [4:45]
25. Substitute [1:24]
26. Where are Your Friends [1:47]
27. Cleaning Up [1:31]
28. End Credits [4:45]


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Half Nelson 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
SleepDreamWrite 10 months ago
This was interesting. The acting was good in this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago