Director: Ryan Fleck
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps
Inspirational teacher movies are a dime a dozen but it’s rare to find something that could have easily followed the well trodden path but manages to go totally against it. This is exactly what Half Nelson does. It couldn’t be described as “inspirational” but it does a very good job of reflecting reality.
Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) teaches history and couches girls basketball at an inner-city school, he’s pretty much what everyone would want in a teacher. He gets that the kids really don’t want to be there and he does his best to make the curriculum interesting and relevant. He, however, is very close to falling off the edge as he seems to slowly do throughout the course of the movie. We find out he’s a drug addict and so does one of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps) who finds him very high and disoriented in the girls locker room after a game. From this they form what could be called a friendship, he starts to feel the need to look after her. Guard her from the sort of people she comes in contact with.
There are a lot of really great scenes in this film that stick with you, the aforementioned discovery in the locker room is just one example. I won’t reveal anymore for fear of spoiling the film. The performances are excellent, the production values minimal. Throughout, you’re not sure how it’ll end but the ending is perfect for the film. This is one of those very rare films that doesn’t give into overdone cliches or overdone performances.