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Half Nelson


Stars: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie

Director: Ryan Fleck

A drug dealer and heavy user, history teacher and basketball coach Dan Dunne (Gosling) finds himself increasingly isolated and unable to communicate. He thinks he can deal with it, but his (considerable) teaching skills are suffering, and he seems unable to mature - 'You're just a big baby', a girlfriend tells him - and his only use for his credit card lies in chopping up drug 'lines'.

He finds some interest in his friendship with 13-year-old student Drey (Epps), who's a loner like himself - and finds himself poacher turned gamekeeper when he tries (and fails) to keep her from becoming delivery girl for the local narcotics king (Mackie).

This is the kind of movie some critics love - deliberate of pace,
hand-held camerawork, and lots of pauses between soft dialogue. It is a poignant portrait of desperate lives being destroyed - even Dan's cat dies - but, like Dan, the film goes nowhere, remaining a still life rather than a tableau vivant.

Gosling does the mumbly bit, while deep-voiced Epps is an assured talent who seems certain to mature well into adult roles.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Axiom Films. Colour by De Luxe.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 13 Apr 2007