...engaging and discerning culture, as a way of life...

January 15, 2007

Half Nelson - 7

This is not your typical film about a teacher in an urban school. Most of the films in that category usually work on the premise that the teacher comes in as a sort of renegade savior, and changes students, the school, and the world. There are, of course, degrees of this. Dead Poet's Society, The History Boys, and Stand and Deliver do a pretty good job of staying in the realm of the real, which gives them more relevance to actual situations. While films like Dangerous Minds and Coach Carter, make education trivial and simple if the teacher just asserts themselves. This film does the opposite of these film. While you are sympathetic to the main character, Dan (Ryan Gosling) who is a junior high history teacher in an urban school. He is somewhat of a renegade teacher in that he frequently leaves the set out curriculum to give his students his own view of how history works. Added to all this is the important fact that he is hiding his drug addiction from everyone. One of his students, Drey (played excellently by Shareeka Epps), accidentally discovers this secret and their relationship is forever changed. The rest of the film develops the nuances of this relationship and how it changes both Drey and Dan. This secret becomes the thing that connects them to the truth and while it doesn't ultimately set them free, it allows them to recognize the potential to be set free.

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