2006

December 21, 2008
September 16, 2006
DVD — Thanks, Paul
USA
English
106 Minutes — August 11, 2006
Drama
Ryan Fleck
Ryan Gosling [Remember The Titans; The Believer; The Notebook; Lars And The Real Girl]

Secrets Don’t Let Go.

A teacher in an inner-city middle school has a heroin habit — a fact discovered but kept secret by one of his pupils, a 13-year-old girl. He tries to protect her from unseemly influences in her life out of school, and they strike up a cautious friendship.

“Hey Teach, can I ask you something?”
“Mmm-hmm”
“What’s it feel like when you smoke that stuff?”

And then the look on Ryan Gosling’s face somehow tells us how hard the struggle is inside him. The struggle against drugs and the struggle to remain a viable and worthwhile role model to the students he teaches. This was my favorite film of 2006 and I was again captivated by Gosling’s realistic (and realistically flawed) performance as a caring teacher by day, basehead by night.

One father figure for Drey is the local drug dealer, who has a stable home life, a nice car, and whose worse vice appears to be an addiction to peppermint candies. The other father figure is a schoolteacher, who can barely make rent, hooks up with strangers in bars, and is addicted to all sorts of substances. Neither are good for her. Both truly care about her.



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HALF NELSON is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 7. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here. (note: the audio quality back then wasn’t particularly good–I breathe heavily during this episode–sorry):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 HALF NELSON Discussion, Part 1
• Break
• 20:56 HALF NELSON Discussion, Part 2
• Break
• 31:35 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 32:36 The Last Five®
• Break
• 47:12 Corrections
• Break
• 49:19 Surprise Segment
• 56:42 Credits and outtakes

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“It’s a thinly disguised battle of wills over the future of an adolescent girl between two improbable saviors, but the writing and characterizations are so strong that the story never feels reduced to such a bald formula. Instead, the script is full of intriguing grace notes; Dan’s ambivalence about growing up, Drey’s wisdom that often gives way to her child-like qualities; and the pact between the two, which in context seems oddly believable. And it’s rare that one sees an actor inhabit a role as meticulously as Gosling does here.” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“The script deals steadily with enduring racial and social divisions in America by pitching the liberal thinking of the classroom against the reality of the street. Gosling and Epps, a most unusual and effective pair, show real commitment.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

8.5 Metacritic
7.5 IMDB
** Halliwell’s

Half Nelson @ Amazon

HALF NELSON

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Written by Michael W. Cummins