Time Out says
Ostensibly following the middle-class-teacher-galvanises-deprived-pupils model laid down by the likes of ‘Dangerous Minds’ and ‘Freedom Writers’, the film in fact offers a complex balancing act in which power and sympathy continually shift. Dan already has his class’s attention and respect when we meet them, and the friendship he develops with 13-year-old latch-key kid Drey (non-professional Shareeka Epps) begins when she discovers him smoking crack in the school toilets – at which point he neither threatens nor pleads with her, but demands her help. Both Gosling and Epps are terrific, his eyes heavy-lidded, drifting yet unmistakably self-knowing, hers defiant, wary and occasionally soft. Each demands empathy though neither is on a reassuring path to salvation. Dialectics, according to the children’s book which Dan is struggling to complete, is ‘a theory that tries to explain how change works’. In its five-steps-forward, four-steps-back way, ‘Half Nelson’ describes its limited progress with deft sophistication.
Cast and crew