This weeks pick was difficult. I had a handful of movies in mind before settling on Half Nelson, a film I overlooked back when it first came out. It tells a story that deals with addiction and the reasons that people feel the need to self medicate themselves.
The film focuses on Dan (Ryan Gosling), a teacher at a Brooklyn middle-school. Inside the classroom, Dan seems happy and has everything under control. Outside of work, though, we learn that Dan is an addict that uses cocaine to combat depression. Drey, one of Dan’s students, finds him freebasing in the locker room. Instead of turning him in, she helps him clean up and keeps his secret. Dan forms a friendship with Drey and begins to worry that she is being targeted for recruitment by a local dealer.
It would be very easy for this kind of story to veer into after school special territory, but it never comes close. Gosling’s performance is incredible and certainly the highlight of the movie. The dialogue is smartly written and especially shines in the scenes between Dan and Drey. This is definitely one that needs to be tracked down and watched as soon as possible.