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Half Nelson (2006)

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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.


4,010 ( 195)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 29 wins & 47 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tyra Kwao-Vovo ...
Rosemary Ledee ...
Jamal (as Tristan Wilds)
Bryce Silver ...
Kaela C. Pabon ...
Erica Rivera ...
Erika (as Erika Rivera)
Stephanie Bast ...


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:

Fél Nelson  »


Box Office


$700,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$53,983, 13 August 2006

Gross USA:

$2,694,973, 10 December 2006
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Dan picking up the cat before going into Frank's house was unrehearsed. Ryan Gosling saw the stray cat during the filming to the scene, and picked it up. Because Dan's cat died a few scenes before, the filmmakers thought it was perfect for the film and put it in the final cut. See more »


Dan: [after watching Mario Savio's speech about The Machine] What is this machine that he's walking about? It's keeping us down, what is it?
Jamal: Like, robots and stuff, right?
Dan: Umm... it could be robots. It could be robots, but let's say it's a metaphor. He's saying this machine is keeping you down. Now, what is that? What keeps us from being free? Ms. Drey?
Drey: Prisons.
Dan: Absolutely. Absolutely, prisons. OK? Prisons are definitely a part of it. What else?
Terrence: White!
Dan: White is definitely a part of it. The Man.
Student: The ...
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References Lethal Weapon (1987) See more »


Can't You See
Written by Tom Caldwell
Performed by The Marshall Tucker Band
Courtesy of Marshall Tucker Entertainment d/b/a Ramblin' Records
Under exclusive license to Shout Factory LLC
Under license from Spirit One Music/Spirit Music Group
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User Reviews

Not One False Note in this Film
19 August 2006 | by See all my reviews

"Half Nelson" is a spare, original story with exquisitely natural and fresh performances delivered by Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps and Anthony Mackie. The film covers ground somewhat like what we've seen in "To Sir, With Love," "Dangerous Minds," "The Blackboard Jungle" and other inner-city school dramas. Only this film focuses on the lives of one teacher and student in an intimate and up-close way. "Half Nelson" looks at specific lives and does not generalize. There is little exposition, and so much of what we learn about the characters is deduced from how they said something, rather than what they said. At times, I found myself laughing and smiling through what is a rather disturbing story because of the way the characters react to the circumstances they find themselves in.

I can't say enough good things about this film and highly recommend it because it is well conceived, directed and performed.

I hope it receives support and recognition during the film award season so that a wider audience will find and see this independent film.

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