Half Nelson

Carra Noelle Simpson

In Half Nelson (THINKFilm), Ryan Gosling plays Dan Dunne, a strung-out teacher working in an inner-city middle school in New York, where, as the teacher, he is the only “white kid” in the classroom. Dunne’s passion for teaching history and his genuine respect for the kids is equalled only by his severe substance addiction, and each day he arrives at school a little more messed up than the day before. What is most interesting about the movie is the intimate-without-being-creepy relationship Dunne develops with his student, Drey, a member of the girls’ basketball team he coaches. Drey is the daughter of a hard-working single mom and a deadbeat dad and is trying to avoid landing in jail like her drug-dealing older brother. But who is her drug-addicted teacher to urge her to stay in school? There are subtle and not-so-subtle ironies at play throughout the film, both disturbing and touching in their honesty. Half Nelson offers a fresh view of human relationships as well as a complicated look at inner-city life.

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