Brings me back to the grand days of when all my middle school teachers were smoking crack.
Transcending age and race, an improbable friendship between crack-addicted educator Dan Dunne (Oscar-nominated Ryan Gosling) and streetwise middle-schooler Drey (Shareeka Epps) may lead them to deliverance — or destruction — in this powerful urban drama. After Drey finds Dunne feeding his habit in a locker room, she becomes a conduit for a life-changing lesson.
When it comes to talking about great, Indie dramas, with power, this film should be the first to come into discussion. The thing with this film, is that it was sort of like The Wrestler for 2006. It never got any real exposure in the movie theaters and the only reason it got a sense of some buzz, was cause it’s leading actor was nominated for an Oscar. I wish more films like this got the certain exposure like many crap-fests hitting number 1 in the box-office. But, oh well, I still loved the hell out of this.
The best thing about this film is that it’s honest. You don’t see drugs as being a great and happy thing that makes you feel free, you see what it does to your mind, and most importantly, the people around you. There are many scenes you can see that Dan just totally alienates the others around him cause he has that urge for the drug within him, and its shown as an uncontrollable thing.
The one thing about this film that will really keep viewers riveted and watching, is that it is very unpredictable. There’s always a sense of danger with these characters, because of their surroundings and the things they do. Many scenes, and I do mean many, could have just gone in the wrong place, but instead they go one place, that we never imagined would have happened, and we are just amazed by how perfect it actually is.
Most of the film is all about the theme’s all these people face in everyday life. People in this film, as in real life from who I know, face the problem of making every-day grown-up friends, and knowing what they want with their future. This film shows that in a huge sense, because both of these characters feel a huge sense of pain and hurt, and through their relation of the same problems, they find ways, to somehow heal one another. Not a lot of things are shown in this film, such as when Golsing’s getting high, most of the time you just sort of know it, and just use your mind for a lot of the scenes, and don’t just know, because the film is basically telling you. That sort of restraint that this picture has brings out so much to offer about all of real life’s hard ships.
If there was any problem I had with this film, was that there was one scene between him and his family, that could have just been perfect. It was still good, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like it was somehow missing the one little ingredient that would have made it the most powerful thing of all.
When it comes to my favorite actors of all-time on any list, Ryan Gosling is always mentioned. Yeah he’s good in Lars and the Real Girl, and the one everybody knows, The Notebook, but this is the main film that shows off his talents as a true bona-fide actor. Every single scene he is just perfect, note-for-note, and everything about him feels genuine. You look at this character every scene, and just see a troubled young man, that has problems with his life, mostly due to the fact, that his drug addiction is what’s killing him. He is a messed-up guy, but Gosling makes him likable with his likable act that he has with many great and powerful scenes with his students. I still wonder how an actor, like Gosling, can look at a script, and basically be like: “I can do this, and make an Oscar nomination”. But that’s the thing, he doesn’t even look like he’s trying too much, it just comes to him naturally. I wish there was more ways I could express my praise for this performance, but in other words, it’s just a great performance.
But must I not forget Shareeka Epps, who if she keeps on going, has quite the career ahead of her. Her performance is heart-felt, true, and troubled, just how the perfect child-star acting performance should be. Her and Gosling create this genuine chemistry that, will turn some heads, but will ultimately leave you affected. Another one of my favorites, Anthony Mackie, is powerful here as well, providing a lot of great character moments for him, and although isn’t the most important one, his character still works, mostly cause Mackie is that good.
Consensus: Half Nelson is one of the most powerful films of the past decade, with brutal honesty, as well as true feelings, about hope, friendship, growing up, and drug addiction. Every note here is hit perfectly, mostly due to the performances from the cast, especially the spot-on Gosling.