Half Nelson movie cast: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie
Half Nelson movie director: Ryan Fleck
Half Nelson movie rating: 5 stars
“Change moves in spirals, not circles. For example, the sun goes up and then it goes down. But every time that happens, what do you get? You get a new day. When you breathe, you inhale and you exhale, but every single time that you do that you’re a little bit different than you were before. We’re always changing,” Ryan Gosling’s Dan Dunne says in Half Nelson.
The 2006 film is about what, as human beings, we are willing to change in ourselves. It’s about second chances. Dan is an unstable cocaine-snorting History teacher whose unconventional methods of teaching make him popular among his students over time. At the school, he befriends 13-year-old Drey (a brilliant Shareeka Epps) and together they teach each other a thing or two about life.
There is not much in the way of plot here. It’s a slice-of-life meets coming-of-age drama that managed to hold my attention thanks to almost flawless performances by both Gosling and Epps.
Ryan Fleck’s direction ties in smoothly with the troubled storylines of his leads. While we have seen many stories of addicts and children who come from broken homes before, Half Nelson carves a special place for itself in that crowd. Nothing seems to be overdone and no one seems to have gone overboard, and this rings true of supporting characters like that of Anthony Mackie, Tina Holmes and Deborah Rush.
Some of the most touching moments occur when Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps share screen space. It is hard to believe that Half Nelson was Epps’ debut.
The sequences when Epps seems to be bowled over by her teacher is bittersweet. Sweet because ‘crushing on your teacher’ is a phase that nearly everyone on this planet has experienced, and it is bitter because we know that these are the only moments of unadulterated respite of adolescence that our young heroine has a chance to feel.
Hollywood Rewind: Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday | American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles
As far as our male lead is concerned, Half Nelson is considered Ryan Gosling’s breakout performance for which he was even nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category.
So if you still have not had the chance to catch Half Nelson, go watch it now. It is moving, sweet and compelling. All at the same time.