One description of the movie Half Nelson I related to was ‘unsentimental’. This movie does not offer answers instead it reflects what the actor Gosling does in his role as a middle-school history teacher (as seen in the video below) which is ‘dialectics’ in concept and dialogical in implementation. 26 year-old Gosling was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance here.
Despite his dedication to the junior-high students who fill his classroom, idealistic teacher Dan Dunne leads a secret life of addiction that the majority of his students will never know. But things change when a troubled student Drey makes a startling discovery of his secret life, causing a tenuous bond between the two that could either end disastrously or provide a catalyst of hope.
The film grossed $2,697,938 in North America and $1,962,543 internationally for a worldwide gross of $4,660,481. The film’s budget was $700,000. The film has overwhelmingly positive critical reviews with an approval rating of 90%. I saw this just after it came out at the cinema and I was so impressed by its authenticity because it avoids the inspirational cliches. The film shows with astonishing clarity, the complexity of a talented man dragged down by a legacy of good intentions and addiction.
There is another fine movie about someone tormented by crack-cocaine which I revisited again recently called The Fighter by David Russell although that is not as nuanced and realistic as Half Nelson it satisfied a larger commercial base. Half Nelson is one of those few movies which lingered in my psyche well after seeing it although I second-guess’d if I enjoyed the movie. I related to it from personal experience.
Dan played by Gosling is filled with the kind of optimism that many of us had coming right out of college, when we cared passionately about our beliefs and believed we could make others care as much about them. However, Dan’s promise as a teacher is severely limited by his addiction to crack, which consumes his personal life.
The film was shot in 23 days and finished one day ahead of schedule…..Gosling moved to New York for one month before shooting began, immersing himself in the life of his character. He lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and spent time shadowing 8th grade teacher David Easton.
1. Half Nelson: Wikipedia