7 June 2009 | wes-connors
The Life You Save May Be Your Own
"Ryan Gosling stars as Dan Dunne, a young teacher whose edgy yet brilliant approach to history inspires his inner-city students to think for themselves. But, outside the classroom, Dan's life is spiraling out of control. Wrestling with inner demons and nursing a serious drug habit, Dan finally hits rock bottom - witnessed by one of his troubled students, Drey (Shareeka Epps). With an unlikely friendship built on a shared secret, Dan tries to steer her away from a small-time drug dealer (Anthony Mackie). But no matter which way they turn to survive, their lives will change forever," according to the film's official synopsis.
"Half Nelson" suffers from too much of the wobbly "hand held" camera technique which, frankly, isn't necessary to make the film look more realistic. Yet, the story, by director Ryan Fleck and partner Anna Boden, and characterizations are good enough to overcome this distraction. The marvelously written screenplay is full of nuances, which serve the main point - showing the interconnecting ways drug addiction can infect the human spirit, when people like those played by Mr. Gosling and Ms. Epps are needed to play much more positive roles in a troubled world.
Gosling's "Academy Award" nomination for "Best Actor" is clearly understandable; and, Epps could have easily won some "Best Supporting Actress" consideration. At least, the "Independent Spirit Awards" recognized the memorable pair's delicately played teacher/student roles. Everyone else in the cast is excellent, as well. And, the non-melodramatic ending leaves "Half Nelson" full of hope.
******* Half Nelson (3/22/06) Ryan Fleck ~ Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Monique Gabriela Curnen