Half Nelson (2006) - Plot Summary Poster


Plot Summary

  • 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 always working to provide for Drey. Her older brother Mike is incarcerated for selling drugs for a local dealer named Frank. Mike took the fall for Frank, who in turn protects Drey whether she wants to be associated with him or not. Dan and Drey's relationship changes when Drey catches Dan, believing he is alone, smoking crack in the girl's locker room bathroom. He is totally stoned. Their resulting friendship, which is seen as inappropriate by the few who know, is based on each being unable to deal with their own life, but feeling like they can be at least a minor salvation in the other's life.

    - Written by Huggo
  • Dan Dunne is an eighth-grade history teacher in an inner-city school deep in the heart of Brooklyn. He eschews the provided curriculum in favor of off-the-cuff, but deeply heartfelt lectures about the importance of understanding history, rather than just memorizing it. He speaks primarily of dialectics, the tensions between two opposing forces. He is torn between his desire to change the world and his increasingly desperate realization that he can't, at least not in the grand, awe-inspiring ways that he envisioned as an eager, idealistic college student. He started using drugs as a way to escape the pain of life, and it has turned into a crutch that bears increasingly heavy loads of psychological weight. In his classroom, which is populated almost entirely by black and Hispanic students, Dan lectures about how the world is structured into opposing forces, illustrating it at one point by arm-wrestling one of his students. His unorthodox approach inspires them during class, but interestingly enough we don't see its effects outside the classroom. The film focuses on Dan and his relationship with Drey, a 13-year-old student of his who catches him in the bathroom smoking crack after school one day. Drey understands Dan's frustrations with life; she is the child of an overworked single mother whom she barely sees, and spending so much time on her own has made her self-reliant, but also hard on the edges.

    - Written by alfiehitchie
  • 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.

    - Written by Anonymous


Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is a young inner-city high school teacher whose ideals wither and die in the face of reality...

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