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Half Nelson Review Critics


Dave White Profile

… unusual and politically metaphorical … Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    Half Nelson offers an opportunity to marvel, once again, at the dazzling talent of Ryan Gosling for playing young men as believable as they are psychologically trip-wired.

    Read Full Review

  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    If there was ever any doubt, with Half Nelson, Ryan Gosling establishes himself as a major talent and one of the finest young actors around.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    A compelling drama that establishes Ryan Gosling as one of the finest actors of his generation.

    Read Full Review

  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    No halves about it: Half Nelson is a wholly absorbing and delicately shaded portrait of an educator played by Ryan Gosling, a young man harboring an offstage secret.

    Read Full Review

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Indie inner-city drama with drug-addict teacher.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is no "hero white teacher saves the poor minority students" uplifter. Instead it's far more complex and challenging, because the white hero teacher, for all his good intentions, is also a drug user, a slave to narcotics on the streets, and conflicted about his job. There is much raw language; some sex, including a scene that mixes sex with violence; and the depiction of a strung-out addict. And the "straight" teachers in the school are jaded and calloused. The kids, especially the girl who learns Mr. Dunne's secret, seem less at-risk than he does. In class, Dunne's (unauthorized) history lessons come from a sharply left-wing stance, with reports on U.S. violations of law and human rights, at home and abroad.

  • Families can talk about ways this movie goes against clichés, presenting a very clearly flawed main character in the normally idealized role of a teacher-mentor. Who do you think is a healthier person, Dan Dunne or Drey? Dunne's students do seem to be learning from him, but do you really think he should have a job as an educator? What do you think will happen to him? Kids and grownups can talk about the real-life teachers they've admired, and whether any of them seemed like the sorts of characters we see presented onscreen, in Half Nelson or more typical blackboard-jungle dramas.

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Obviously this is a story about good role models who have bad sides, exemplified by Danny, the young teacher who really cares, but is also really messed up on drugs a lot of the time. His fellow administrators seem jaded and apathetic, though they're "straight." The student girl Drey is no angel, but she's smart enough to shy away from violence and destructive lifestyles. A drug dealer flaunts his easy-money earnings.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: The main character is struck in the face while nearly committing rape.

  • sex false3

    Sex: A montage-y tangle of limbs in a lyrical sex scene between Daniel and another teacher he takes as a lover. Later in a drug-fueled state he nearly rapes her. Scantily dressed females in drug dens and music-club environments.

  • language false5

    Language: Much swearing, in arguments, street talk, and during heated school basketball games (Coach Dunne gets penalized for calling someone an asshole).

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Some popular songs on the soundtrack.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false5

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: The main character is a drug-addict teacher who claims he can keep it under control, and we get glimpses of langorous crack-smoking parties and drinking in bars.