"Half Nelson" is not a movie about drugs. It is rather, a meditation on overcoming addiction, as well as a very human portrait of unlikely friendship. Ryan Gosling gives the performance of a lifetime as the washed-up Dan, a drug-addicted teacher who's empathetic and warm and fragile at the same time. Shareeka Epps, the twelve-year-old black student who befriends Dan, is also terrific as the female lead. But the reason the movie shines is because first-time directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have infused a contemporary work that is gritty and evocative with the message that hope is never far away. (There are moments of inappropriate language, some sexuality, as well as numerous shots of cocaine inhalation and drug use, but they can easily be fast-forwarded.) Overall, Half Nelson is an indie film that is beautiful and relatively unknown, but still can be experienced by teens and adults for the first time.