Yes, But Where’s the Plot?
Release Date: August 11, 2006
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shakeera Epps
and Anthony Mackie
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Ryan Fleck
Executive Producer: None
Producer: Jamie Patricof, Alex Orlovsky,
Lynette Howell, Anna Boden,
and Rosanne Korenberg
Writer: Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
Address Comments To:Jeff Sackman
23 East 22nd Street, 5th Floor
New York, New York 10010
Phone: (212) 244-7900
Fax: (212) 244-7901
HALF NELSON stars Ryan Gosling as Dan Dunne, a junior high history teacher and coach in Brooklyn, New York, who teaches Marxist dialectics to his black students. One day after a game, one of his students and players, Drey (played by Shakeera Epps), catches Dan in a crack cocaine haze in the locker room. She helps him get on his feet, and he begins driving the girl home after school sometimes. As Dan’s addiction sees him spiraling downward, he eventually tries to save Drey from Frank, the friendly drug dealer who gives Drey and her mother money out of guilt for letting Drey’s older sibling take a drug rap for him.
HALF NELSON is one of those intense character studies where nothing much happens until the second half of the movie. The filmmakers are so determined not to fall into clichés that they neglect to give their movie a plot with a beginning, middle and an end. Nor do they present a clear premise as the friendship between Dan and Drey evolves. Their camerawork is also incredibly claustrophobic, which actually gets in the way of the performances and the drama even as it closes in on them.
Although the cast gives incredibly subtle performances, the performances are a bit too subtle. The emotions they display are often lackluster, except in rare moments when the characters are confronting another character. This may please pseudo-intellectual, leftist film critics, but it does not make for a great cinematic experience.
The worldview of HALF NELSON and the filmmakers is a humanist one, with strong Romantic, Marxist notions of society and history. The protagonist successfully indoctrinates his students with radical Marxist ideology, and the movie views this as a good thing.
HALF NELSON is one of those intense character studies where nothing much happens until the second half of the movie. Even then, not much happens. The filmmakers neglect to give their movie a plot with a beginning, middle and an end. Nor do they present a clear premise. Their camerawork is also incredibly claustrophobic, which gets in the way. Finally, HALF NELSON contains plenty of strong foul language and a humanist worldview with strong Romantic, Marxist notions of society and history.