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Half Nelson
Review written on: February 24th, 2007

Half Nelson Review

It’s about time Ryan Gosling is getting some attention from the Oscar crowd. His performances in Murder By Numbers and Stay made those movies what they are. He interacts flawlessly with his costars, and he fully becomes each character. He absolutely deserves his Oscar Nomination for this film. He’s captivating and genuine. Granted, I love him in every role he’s in, but he’s wonderful in this film nonetheless.

Shareeka Epps, the young actress that plays Drey, is fantastic. Her subtle expressions portray wisdom beyond her years, yet at the same time show her as an innocent, impressionable young girl.

Gosling plays a crack addict/ middle school history teacher. He’s trying to make a difference in the kids’ lives whlie dealing with his own addiction and problems. He’s teaching the kids about the impact of opposing forces on the course of history, while dealing with his inner demons of good vs. evil, teacher vs. addict. He rebels against the school system by teaching mostly from memory, and definitely not out of the approved curriculum, yet he’s very much a part of the system as he punishes a student for repeatedly cheating on tests. He is a walking contradiction, but as he teaches his students, that’s the way life is supposed to be.

Ryan Gosling’s character, Dan Dunne, starts to watch out for Drey, one of his students. He drives her home from basketball practice since her dad is never around, her older brother is in jail, and the only other male figure in her life is the drug dealer that got her brother thrown in jail. Half of him wants to watch out for this poor girl who’s terrified of ending up like her brother, while the other half of him realizes the irony of a drug addict trying to prevent a child from becoming drug dealer.

Drey is facing a similar crossroads. She doesn’t want to see her teacher doing drugs and she doesn’t want to end up like her brother, yet being a drug runner is easy money for her.

The two have an easy friendship. Where each has problems relating to people their own age, they seem to understand each other. Don’t worry – it’s not going down the creepy teacher-student road. It’s a genuine, however unlikely, friendship. They both seem to be just what the other needs to get their life back on track.

I’m honestly not sure what to say about this movie. I think I need to sit down and watch the movie again to truly understand the complexity of it. I feel like there’s some big picture I’m missing, yet at the same time, I feel like the seeming simplicity of it was the beauty of the film. The only thing I can say, is that you absolutely have to see it.

 

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