Release Date: August 11th, 2006 by THINKfilm.
The Cast: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Karen Chilton, Nathan Corbett, Monique Churnen, Tina Holmes, Collins Pennie.
Directed by Ryan Fleck.
BASIC PREMISE: Dan (Gosling), a teacher and coach in an inner-city school, befriends one of his students, Drey (Epps).
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Half Nelson boasts an amazingly convincing performance by Ryan Gosling who plays Dan, a young teacher and basketball coach suffering from drug addiction. What could have been a hypnotic, clichťd movie with Danís life just spiraling downwards, instead takes the slightly less predictable and refreshing road when he begins a special friendship with Drey, a 12-year-old student who also happens to be one of his basketball players. Drey comes from a dysfunctional family with no real father figure or any role model for that matter. Her brother gets involved in the drug business, run by Frank (Mackie). Frank tries to keep an eye on Drey because he wants to recruit her into the business as well. Life for Dan isnít any better. He just got out of a relationship with a fellow teacher (Holmes) who he attempted to rape during one of his drug-influenced outbursts. Most of the film follows Dan and Drey they gradually get to know one another. Co-screenwriters Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden do a superb job of writing true-to-life dialogue with not a single scene that reeks from contrivance or melodrama. Moreover, Dan and Drey are both believable and quite likable characters who you easily end up caring about. It would have been nice to know more information about Danís familial background and childhood, though. Director Ryan Fleck keeps the pace and editing flowing smoothly and naturally without headache-inducing cinematography. Even though the plot doesnít have any real surprises, at least the performances are strong enough and the characters feel real enough for you to be highly engrossed in the film from start to finish.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Every scene with Dan and Drey interacting feels moving and even heartwarming. Itís very satisfying to watch an authority figure such as Dan take control of his life to some degree by acting as a father figure for Drey. Essentially, they both have a mutually beneficial relationship because they fill a void in each other lives: Drey needs an adult and a friend whom she can trust while Dan needs somebody kind who believes in him and can set him on the right track in life.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Thoroughly engrossing and ultimately heartwarming with a stand-out performance by Ryan Gosling.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "H" Menu