Half Nelson

Just caught Half Nelson which was especially recommended by Shiuan. I liked the movie. It’s one of those teacher flicks, where the inspirational teacher, by his unconventional teaching methods, reach out to his students. The setting is in one of those poorer suburbs. It’s quite different from Dangerous Minds, a similar movie where the inspirational teacher in the form of Michelle Pfeiffer reach out to the students of an inner city school. Ryan Gosling unlike Michelle Pfeiffer has a serious drug problem. He was caught by one of his students smoking dope in the washroom one day and the movie examines the relationship between these two people and how their friendship develops. I like the bits of history intertwined with the plot, it was informative and funny at times. The movie also gives a very sympathetic portrayal of Nelson’s cocaine problem:

Nelson: I’m on top of it you know. I know it’s funny to be saying this, but I’ve cleaned up. And it works for me. Other things have worked for other people but not me. They don’t work for me. Not for me.

Nelson is a history teacher and one can feel his political angst towards Bush’s supporters and how stupid they are. One gets the feeling at the end of the movie that if he didn’t feel all that much, he won’t be using drugs as an escape.

It is a more real story than Dangerous Minds. It’s much less moralistic and optimistic. The movie lacks a true ending, Nelson’s drug problem still hovers and the student is not in the best of situations. It just ends there. I think one of the themes that underlie the film is how multi-faceted Nelson is, and how he wants to effect change by doing the right thing. He’s not role model material and he has his problems and issues but he tries to listen to his conscience.

The lack of a proper ending disturbs me, so I interpreted the open ending as ‘Life goes on but if you have friends with you, it becomes bearable.’ It’s a nice movie. Go watch it. It’s only available at The Cathay though. One of those exclusive independent films. And it doesn’t hurt that Ryan Gosling is easy on the eyes. (“,)


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