Half Nelson * * * * 1/2

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Director: Ryan Fleck.
Screenplay: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Deborah Rush, Jay O. Sanders, Tina Holmes, Denis O’Hare, Monique Curnen.

Ryan Gosling is one of those actors that is in danger of his talents being overshadowed because he’s seen as eye candy for the female cinema going public – much in the same way that Brad Pitt has suffered. However, if he keeps producing high calibre performances such as this, then there will be no denying why he’s on screen in the first place.

Dan Dunne (Gosling) teaches in a poor school where his unusual approach engages the pupils. But out of school, frustration fuels his drug habit. One night troubled student Drey (Shareeka Epps) chances upon him while he’s high on crack cocaine, and a bond is forged.

It’s unfair to praise a film based solely on one person’s performance, especially when the writing, directing and supporting actors all do their fair share. But this is a film that’s hard to see beyond the lead actor. Gosling is the real deal; nuanced and edgy with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subtlety. He’s an actor that possesses the unique ability to say very little but express so much. Full of subtle ticks and mannerisms, to convey his feelings. In this case, a struggling addict trying to function in his day-to-day life. It’s another marvellous and understated performance that garnered him a well deserved Oscar nomination – unlucky to lose out to Forest Whitaker’s grandstanding in “The Last King of Scotland”. This is a film of many layers, and writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck cleverly introduce the theory of Dialectics – the process of change through opposing forces. Gosling and Epps – teacher and pupil – are exactly these opposing forces and only through each other will they ultimately find salvation. The first time I saw this, I enjoyed it for it’s indie style but missed the depth it had and didn’t really get what all the fuss was about. On second viewing though, it’s quality really stands out. This is a nourishing and deliberately paced slice of life that’s competently directed by Ryan Fleck in his first feature.

A rapturous round of applause for all involved in this beautifully crafted and wonderfully acted gem.

Mark Walker

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One Response to “Half Nelson * * * * 1/2”

  1. Fourtenatly I actually own this film so there’s nothing that keeps me from a second viewing. Well, apart from that I once again will have to suffer from not hearing/understanding what they say due to lack of subtitles. But while missing out some, I really liked it. And as you say – Gosling is outstanding.

    Like

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