• James Rutherford

'Half Nelson': A Genuine and Touchingly Humanistic Indie Drama


Movie poster for the film Half Nelson starring Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie and Shareeka Epps

“Half Nelson” (2006) is a strikingly assured indie drama starring Ryan Gosling (in an Oscar-nominated performance) as Dan Dunne, a junior high school teacher in Brooklyn, NY, dedicated to opening the minds of his young students, even as he battles his own unrelenting addiction to drugs.


Coaching the women’s basketball team, Dunne is discovered one evening by one of his players/students, Dre (Shareeka Epps), strung out on crack—a moment that becomes the genesis for an unlikely camaraderie between the two. Their unique friendship becomes the foundation of a touching story about honestly and reclamation.


Directed by Ryan Fleck (Sugar, Mississippi Grind), “Half Nelson” is a poignantly real human drama aided immeasurably by Gosling and Epps’ winningly naturalistic performances. Tip of the hat to Anthony Mackie as well, in his refreshingly unclichéd role as Frank, the drug dealer that ties Dan and Dre together. It's a real winner of a film that highlights the best of what independent cinema has come to offer in the 21st Century.

 

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