It seems that things are still going on in a different turn of this teacher who works in middle school. The events begin where Dan Dunn is a teacher who works in middle school and establishes an unlikely friendship with one of his disciples after discovering his secret quite unexpectedly.
This movie... is concerned with an even greater achievement that is generally unacknowledged: how people -- flawed, miserable, frustrated people -- go to work every day and find a way to care about something beyond themselves, despite themselves.
"Half Nelson" elegantly tiptoe around its elephant in the room: Dan's most compelling instruction to not let Drey enter the drug trade is his own destruction. That point of panic turns into something approaching penance.
Gosling is indeed amazing as a bewildered, depressed New York schoolteacher who is slipping into dire drug addiction; it's exactly the kind of star turn in a smaller film that Academy voters could (and should) notice.
Although the subject promises more than the film can deliver, there is compensation in Gosling's convincing, unromanticized portrayal of someone seeking escape from longing and loss that neither he nor the movie can really define.
April 22, 2009
The movie hits a stream of false notes when Dunne's students deliver oral reports on Civil Rights struggles that could only have been plagiarized. The film's ending isn't only meager, it's utterly listless.
Ryan Gosling's self-destructive teacher is easily the year's most mesmerizing character study. And he's hardly the only reason to see this film. Shareeka Epps anchors her scenes as Drey with a self-possession way beyond her years.