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Half Nelson

HD   R Closed Captioning

Ryan Fleck

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About the Movie

Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is a young inner-city junior high school teacher whose ideals wither and die in the face of reality. Day after day in his shabby Brooklyn classroom, he somehow finds the energy to inspire his 13 and 14-year-olds to examine everything from civil rights to the Civil War with a new enthusiasm. Rejecting the standard curriculum in favor of an edgier approach, Dan teaches his students how change works... on both a historical and personal scale...and how to think for themselves. Though Dan is brilliant, dynamic, and in control in the classroom, he spends his time outside school on the edge of consciousness. His disappointments and disillusionment have led to a serious drug habit. He juggles his hangovers and his homework, keeping his lives separated, until one of his troubled students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), catches him getting high after school. From this awkward beginning, Dan and Drey stumble into an unexpected friendship. Despite the differences in their ages and situations, they are both at an important intersection. Depending on which way they turn - and which choices they make - their lives will change.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 155
  • Fresh: 140
  • Rotten: 15
  • Average Rating: 7.6/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: Gosling is indeed amazing as a bewildered, depressed New York schoolteacher who is slipping into dire drug addiction; it's exactly the kind of star turn in a smaller film that Academy voters could (and should) notice. – Andrew O'Hehir,, Apr 3, 2009

Fresh: One might also argue that a crack addict couldn't be responsible enough to be a good teacher, but he's the most believable protagonist in any American movie I've seen this year. – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: It'll be weeks before I shake off [Gosling's] performance -- or the shadows of this small, extraordinary narrative-feature debut from filmmaking partners Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. – Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: The tone is even and thorough, the performances restrained and believable, the implied future bleak yet somehow satisfying. – Michael Booth, Denver Post, Jun 24, 2010

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews


The acting and story is so very real, you almost think you are just sitting in on someone elses life. Very heart wrenching story of addiction and the cycle of poverty and crime. Gosling proves he is just not a pretty boy.

Half Nelson

Oh gosh there is just too much that can be said about this short, there is a reason why Gosling was nominated for an acadamy award. Everything about this film is brilliant to me; from the intimately close camera angles to the hauntingly appropriate soundtrack consisting of broken social scene's eerily ambient music. The screenplay is quite amazing, please don't dismiss this film as a "dangerous minds" or "lean on me" motif, it's simply about being human and having flaws and the complex intimacy explored of the relationships between very fragile characters. The only movie I've ever watched all the way through to the end of the credits...only to start it over again for the second time. The soundtrack really makes the movie, especially for a long time bss fan such as myself, and of course an avid gosling follower...look out for anyone's future projects who was associated with this film.

good and bad

there are exquisite details and brilliant moments all over this film -- and the actors (Gosling and the young girl) are both DAZZLING -- HOWEVER, the film ultimately doesn't cohere -- the obsessive focus on this drug addict does not make for great drama -- the dirty secret about drug addicts is that they're boring (and if anyone but Gosling were in the role, it would have been too boring to watch) -- i look forward to these filmmakers next film, but this one was not quite there.
UPDATE: I watched it again. My opinion has shifted. It's a great film, period.

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Half Nelson
View in iTunes
  • $12.99
  • Genre: Drama
  • Released: 2006

Customer Ratings