Anti After School Special

Half Nelson is one of those movies you go into certain you’ve seen it all before. Just from the promo image up top, it seems we’ve stumbled into yet another inspirational story of that ever-so-rare teacher who transforms an inner city classroom (against all odds, no less). On finding out the teacher is a basehead, it becomes clear that we’ll watch as he finds new strength in a streetwise student (mature beyond her years). Either way, we’re all going to learn a valuable lesson, right?

Not so much. If Half Nelson does one thing, it’s play against expectation and stereotype. In fact, it often seems to turn them in on themselves — and believably so. The script shows remarkable restraint, trying its best not to take the easy way out. That, along with truly fine acting and lovely direction, is what makes the movie so unusual. (And all the more impressive because it’s writer/director Ryan Fleck’s feature debut.) This doesn’t mean Half Nelson is flawless, but but it does mean you should go see it right away.

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