Half Nelson (2006)

Point 1 on the blackboard is Opposing Forces. For some reason that’s all Mr Dunne (Ryan Gosling) seems to teach, even going so far as to arm-wrestle one of his pupils.

This tells the story of crack-addict teacher Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling), whose life is gradually disintegrating. His job is the one thing that keeps him on an even-keel, but it’s looking increasingly like he may lose that soon. One of his pupils, 13-year-old Trey (Shareeka Epps) finds out about his crack addiction and becomes curious about him and they form a kind of friendship. Trey’s life isn’t easy either – her brother is in jail and her mother works as a police officer all day and most evenings, leaving her alone. Crack dealer (Anthony Mackie) is the only person looking out for her, which isn’t exactly ideal…

I haven’t got a lot to say about this really. The film is a life and relationship study that’s not overly dramatic. There’s lots of lingering shots of Dunne looking rough and holding his head in his hands. Similarly there’s lots of shots of Trey riding her bike by herself observing what’s going on around her. Describing it like this, it doesn’t sound great but it works well and the story rings true and is absorbing.

A good film, impressively filmed and well acted. The subject matter is a bit depressing. You wouldn’t say it’s exactly enjoyable but it is interesting and gritty and has no problem depicting people as they really are – flawed.

7/10

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