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Putting on a "Half Nelson"

Posted at 6:09 AM on September 15, 2006 by Euan Kerr

There's a scene in Ryan Fleck's drama "Half Nelson" where Dan, one of the two central characters, has dinner with his parents at their house. We have already seen how he is a great teacher in an inner city school, and also how he has a wretched drug habit which is slowly destroying him.

It's the scene at his parents though which show that this is really a film about how a family can make or break you. Dan (played by a pitch perfect low-key Ryan Gosling)mirrors both his parents liberal idealism, but also their vulnerability to addication, in their case to booze.

In his larger life Dan is worried that Drey, one of the players on his girls basketball team, may fall under the control of her drug-dealing uncle, Frank. Drey, (Shakeera Epps) recognizes the danger herself, but also sees no other way forward as she enters adulthood.

The resulting tale reachs a resolution of sorts, and while there is little redemption in the end, there is a little hope. Both Gosling and Epps put in magnificent performances with an honest mixture of humor and dispair which reflects a reality all too many of us face.

September 2006
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