Friday, September 22, 2006

Half Nelson

I was expecting a lot from this film after reading such glowing reviews but was disappointed. It is still an impressive film with a very fine performance in the lead by Ryan Gosling who plays an erstwhile radical and now a cocaine addled high school history teacher, with a Hegelian bent (he teaches them the "dialectics" of historical progress), in a black neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

I really admired the way it kept itself away from the false pieties and cliches of "inspiring teacher" movies but overall the whole thing didn't cohere. I was expecting a more politically coherent work and a more rounded portrait of a man whose hopes and aspirations are crushed by, ummm.... the dialectical forces of history. But the writers/directors seemed intent on not to lay blame on anyone's door, which might be a good thing, but to me it just made the whole thing confusing and utlimately devoid of any serious purpose. Some scenes were specially very well directed specially the one when Gosling meets his ex-girlfriend who is getting married to someone else. Also his relationship with the young black girl which is the centerpiece of the film is handled very well too.

Jonathan Rosenbaum calls it a masterpiece! Check out his review here. More reviews on Rotten tomatoes.

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