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Half Nelson (2006)

R  |   |  Drama  |  22 September 2006 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 67,633 users   Metascore: 85/100
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An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 35 wins & 33 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tyra Kwao-Vovo ...
Rosemary Ledee ...
Bryce Silver ...
Kaela C. Pabon ...
Erica Rivera ...
Erika (as Erika Rivera)
Eleanor Hutchins ...


Young Caucasian Dan Dunne teaches history and coaches the girls basketball team at a Brooklyn high school populated primarily by black and Hispanic students. To the chagrin of his superiors, Dan bucks the outlined curriculum of historical facts in favor of the philosophy of historical events, generally discussing the concept of dialectics. As such, he captures the imagination of his students, at least in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, Dan's life is in shambles. He has a distant but cordial relationship with his family. He uses illicit drugs rampantly. Although his former girlfriend Rachel was able to clean up her drug habit, Dan believes that rehab will not work for him. Due to a combination of these issues, he treats women poorly. Thirteen year old Drey is a student in his class and a player on his basketball team. Drey has her own problems. Her parents are divorced, with her father a virtually non-existent figure in her life and her EMT mother generally absent as she is ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Secrets don't let go.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for drug content throughout, language and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 September 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Half Nelson - Encurralados  »

Box Office


$700,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$53,983 (USA) (11 August 2006)


$2,694,973 (USA) (8 December 2006)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The school used in the film (with the bright "Neon Celery" and "Key Lime" colored classroom doors), was painted by students from the school through an innovative nonprofit youth development program called Publicolor in NYC. See more »


Dan: I used to be so fucked. I used to be so fucked up. I was just out there. You know? But I fucking cleaned up. I cleaned up,
[snorts a line of cocaine]
Dan: For the most part. I do it now to get by, but I can handle it. You know what I mean? I tried the rehab thing. I tried it. But it didn't work, Didn't work. It works for some people. My ex girlfriend is getting married. That's how it works for some people. Right? Didn't work for me. The kids keep me focused. And I...
See more »


References Romper Room and Friends (1953) See more »


Written by Samuel Gilbert and Darius Leon
Performed by Samuel Gilbert
Courtesy of Allido Records
Under license from Strange Music
See more »

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User Reviews

Saving Oneself
17 February 2007 | by (Orlando, Florida, USA) – See all my reviews

Ryan Gosling gives an off-the-charts, startling, emotionally charged performance as Dan Dunne, a young and unhappy man who is disenchanted with the world and himself.

The camera follows every emotion that surfaces in Dan's mind and face and soul; we watch him spend every waking moment pondering life and its intricate hypocrisies, intolerance, and continuous disappointments, we watch him spend every waking moment pondering his own personal failings and let-downs, we watch him spend every waking moment trying to escape his anguish through drug abuse, and we watch him spend every waking moment mentally and physically punishing himself for his failings by engaging in drug abuse.

In addition to the abuse of drugs, his emotional decline is accelerated by his career as a history teacher (and coach) in an inner-city run-down school where a few, if any, students graduate highschool, let alone advance to college. We readily discern that he has given up all attempts at trying to reach out and inspire his students to fight against the injustices and misinformation that exist in the world.

His mental anguish and desolation and severe alienation, melded with rampant drug use, has nearly destroyed him.

His only hope of survival is being inspired by one of his own students, Drey - whom he has made an incongruous connection with - to save himself.

As Drey (Shareeka Epps) struggles to accept Dan's failings - in the hope that a friendship with him will help both of them overcome their circumstances - she unwittingly leads Dan further down the path of self-destruction, which can only end with a clarifying moment of salvation or untimely death...

Half Nelson is a masterpiece film, emotionally purgative and hypnotically realistic; its depiction of people who only experience fleeting moments of happiness in a retrogressive, bleak world is so realistic that it is visually and spiritually and emotionally soul-shattering.

66 of 94 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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