Half Nelson Review

We must appreciate those few teachers that can leave an impact on us during our times of need and education. Their attitude or confidence, the belief they have in you to succeed, is necessary to how we shape our formative years. My English teacher and university lecturers were influential on my decisions, choices and actions. Half Nelson wishes to convey the importance of role models in the sphere of education. Director Ryan Fleck dares to imply that their life lessons may be more important than the curriculum they teach. We are given scope to the problems they hide from their students, for while their issues are tearing them apart, they are set and focused on helping those they are instructed to teach and inspire.

Kindling the fire of passion among his students, Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) tries to shed his personal problems from the students he nurtures and cares for. He has a clear, strong repertoire with them. His slacker lifestyle appeals to them, for that is what they mark as cool. But beyond the slacker lifestyle are the dark ruminations of disparity and addiction. It is a glimpse into a whole other world, one that audiences may associate with the harder knocks and struggling lifestyles of the families and students surrounding Dunne. It is not a poorly envisioned link, but it desires more depth beyond an addicted, troubled man and the saving grace of his happenstance students. Help can be found in surprising, or even unwanted places, but showcasing that with technically sound and definitive choices is harder than first expected. 

Those intense close-ups on the face of Gosling as the rush of drugs or drink hit him are well-intended but poorly defined. We can see a man in pain but duty-bound to continue helping his students. He is thrown into help when a troubled student, Drey (Shareeka Epps) discovers the sickening addiction afflicting Dunne. This moment of realisation is handled with care, much of the film is. But care and craftsmanship do not often go hand in hand for Fleck, whose focus wavers whenever the emotionally stringent or articulate moments are observed. Gosling turns in a strong performance but is outshined well by the strong work of Epps. They have good chemistry with one another, and Epps work is vital to peeling back the defensive layers Gosling provides Dunne. 

While it holds no real poignancy or strong emotion within it, Half Nelson does have a compelling core relationship that creates a sufficient, interesting narrative. With likeable characters, we are free to take this concept far. There is an abundance of intricate, articulate detail that feels detached because of its directing variety. No matter how great a teacher, leader or idol is, they are mired and marked by their own problems. Nobody is perfect, not even the people we wish to be and those whose footsteps we hope of following. Half Nelson is an honest discussion about who we look up to and why, and how it is not always ideal to hold out the hope of meaningful messages from those who battle and tire of tense, personal afflictions. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s