Detachment is a chronicle of three weeks in the lives of several high school teachers, administrators and students through the eyes of a substitute teacher named Henry Barthes. Henry roams from school to school, imparting modes of knowledge, but never staying long enough to form any semblance of sentient attachment. A perfect profession for one seeking to hide out in the open. One day Henry arrives at his next assignment. Upon his entry into this particular school, a secret world of emotion is awakened within him by three women. A girl named Meredith in his first period. A fellow teacher Ms. Madison, and a street hooker named Erica, whom Henry has personally granted brief shelter from the streets. Each one of these women, like Henry, are in a life and death struggle to find beauty in a seemingly vicious and loveless world.Written by
An unnerving yet brilliant account of the education system and its teachers
As classroom dramas go this may well be one the finest I have ever seen. A compelling insight into Americas failing education system and the beleaguered teachers that inhabit it.
The story centres around Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher who spends three weeks at a high school where the students are as troubled as their teachers. Barthes, portrayed brilliantly by Adrien Brody, finds himself surrounded by individuals who have become jaded to the point of breaking.
His tale becomes even more complex when a chance encounter with a teenage prostitute, Erica, develops into an unconventional friendship. It's within this custodial dynamic that we see some of the films most poignant and heartbreaking moments, as well as some outstanding acting from Sami Gayle, who plays the vulnerable young girl that society has abandoned.
The film employs a three part cutaway technique with Henry Barthes providing a narrative in the form an interview, as well as flashbacks to his childhood - which allows us an insight into why he such a brooding and melancholic character. The flashbacks are often juxtaposed with scenes involving Barthes grandfather with whom he visits in hospital through out the film. The third cutaway is an animated chalkboard sequence which I felt conveyed a sense of culpability and lost innocence.
The film also boasts an extraordinary supporting cast; including James Caan, Marcia Gay Harden and a very brief appearance from Bryan Cranston, as well as a surprisingly fine turn from Lucy Liu- the schools doctor. The staffs sense of disillusionment and frustration, due to the students perpetual indifference to their own fate, is vented brilliantly by Liu in a scene that begs the question; "where, and when, did it all go wrong?"
Though dealing with very bleak subjects and despite the characters ceaseless sense of defeat and abject loathing for their profession, there are still some heart warming moments in the film. And though it offers no suggestion as to how we can amend such failings in our education system, and that parenting has in so many avenues of society become bereft of any moral guidance and adequacy, it still left me reassured that there are those who are still prepared to undertake such a daunting and thankless task.
If you're looking for an entertaining piece then I suggest you look elsewhere, but if you wish to see a brilliantly thought provoking film that raises more questions than it provides answers, and you're prepared for some uncomfortable moments, then you'll be rewarded with a film that is excellently written and directed and has some outstanding performances. A great film!
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