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Half Nelson: Movie Review

Updated on July 31, 2014

In a Jiffy

Half Nelson is a painfully slow movie and even though there is nothing wrong with it, you can't help but wish you had invested your time somewhere else. For all that matters, I doubt if it is even worth a premier in the rehabs. Also if prejudice and judgements can be left apart, why do movies showcasing Afro-Asians always have a dark undertone to them? Guess only Tarantino and Tropic Thunder have got it right. Yes I know drugs are a big deal and they make you a social pariah but frankly it is better to add some pace to the movie.

This is what Half Nelson looks like

Meaning of Half Nelson

"Like the wrestling hold, a half-nelson makes the other person incapable of moving freely, so they are being restrained and held back by others. It is hard to get out of, so often the other person is forced to give up. For me, that was the connection (being restrained and being forced to give up)."

- "Jake No Chat" on Yahoo


Dan is a high school History professor with a good intellect and drug problem trying to fit in this world and having a hard time dealing with it. Adding to it is his troubled past of divorced wife/ estranged girlfriend. One of his students is Drey, who comes from a rough neighborhood and whose brother is in jail for selling drugs. The plot of the movie changes when Drey catches Dan in a "troubled" state in school and the movie then jumps between the definitions of right and wrong for both of them. No big surprises.

The Ifs and Buts

Do you have any idea how much time, money, manpower and creativity of so many people it takes to make a movie? And after all this one might expect something at least remotely entertaining or at least thought provoking. You don't want to get in a theatre and regret the whole time the bucks you have wrongly wasted. For that matter at times like this, even a thing like "time" which otherwise takes a backseat in our everyday lives becomes essense of the moment. Maybe I am too harsh but I waited the whole movie for that one moment that will spin the movie or which will help it gain some guinea points. But it never came. I can only hope at least that maybe it just changed the life of at least one junkie down the street and gave him some moral epiphany, it is purpose accomplished.

Speaking about Ryan Gosling, after watching Lars and the Real Girl, I can say that this man can pull off any movie but why to waste such a talent. He is better suited as a handsome hunk from Crazy Stupid Love or the real bad ass from Gangster Squad. The little girl has definitely done some good to the movie with ease.

"It is just not cool to be a Nazi anymore baby" is the first dialogue that hits the spot, but it comes after strenous 61 minutes of watching. The screenplay is really poor. The photography can be given some points if we consider they had decided to make it a serious movie.


So is this movie about social issues, drug abuse, teenage attraction or basketball? It tries to cover all, at least intends to but falls short on all the grounds. Marginally in some cases. Or maybe the movie is about the death of innocence and simply I didn't get it. But if for nothing else, it is about friendship. That nobody can define it and no one knows what or who in our life can prove to be that one chemical that changes the way we look at things.

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