Half Nelson

Half Nelson tells the story of a crack-addled middle school teacher (Ryan Gosling) and one of his more promising students (Shareeka Epps). Gosling was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, and Epps probably should have been, but this movie left me cold. I was way out of conformance with the majority of critical opinion that found lots of truth and wisdom in it. I saw, instead, a shuffling and mostly one-note performance by Gosling, and a repetitive story about a self-indulgent character we are supposed to believe cares a great deal about his students—between drug binges, even on school property. Epps is a winning on-screen presence, and viewers who stay with the movie will have their hopes raised that the character she plays will overcome the obstacles in her path. Those obstacles include the two adult males closest to her, neither of whom behaves much like an adult at all.