#24. Half Nelson : I’ve slowly come to realize that Ryan Gosling is indeed one of the best actors in Hollywood. Although it may seem obvious to some, it was not always clear to me. Prior to Half Nelson, my only familiarity with Gosling was as the male lead in 2005’s touching, but drab The Notebook. Here, Gosling establishes himself as one of the best actors of his generation.
Gosling plays Dan Dunne, a young, hip, but unorthodox high school teacher working in a tough Brooklyn school. During the day he’s a breath of fresh hair to his young pupils as he puts forth a dynamic style of teaching, bent on real-world application. After school he brings passion to his other job as the coach of the girl’s basketball team. What his students and teaching peers do not know is that this is a facade. Dan is also addicted to crack. Clearly tormented by demons that Dan is unable to dispose of, he continues to live this double life. It all appears to come to a head when one of his players, Drey (played by Shareeka Epps) catches him in the act. What follows is a relationship that develops between the precocious Drey and Dan as they deal with unpleasant realities.
Gosling and Epps are both excellent as two people that form a unique bond over the unlikeliest of circumstance. Gosling’s Academy Award nominated performance alone is enough reason to see this movie. But the manner in which the story is told is quite effective. Half Nelson draws you in, keeping you there as you try to figure out when its all going to come to a head.