Half Nelson

Rated NR

Easily the best film about a crack-addicted junior high school teacher and his inappropriate relationship with a 13-year-old girl that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen all of them. Ryan Gosling is all grown up and excellent as Dan Dunne, a guy who wishes it were the ’60s, because back then, it was considered respectable to get high on dope and spout Marxist theories of history. Sadly, he lives in the early 21st century, and he’s stuck teaching inner-city kids who find his bloody-nosed lectures and blown-pupil performances interesting and engaging, but not sexy and cool—except for young Drey, a girl whose father-figure crush on Dunne leads him into dangerous territory. Beautifully—or perhaps sleazily—shot and staged, Half Nelson would be a great film if it didn’t meander through its middle third. Luckily, the ending is strong enough to make up for the slow spot, and Shareeka Epps is perfect as sad-eyed Drey.

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