Parents' Guide to

Half Nelson

By Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Indie inner-city drama with drug-addict teacher.

Movie R 2006 107 minutes
Half Nelson Poster Image

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HALF NELSON is a refreshing, non-clichéd story about a troubled teacher in an inner-city school and his healing relationship with a young black student -- not the other way around. Uplifting schoolroom dramas like Freedom Writers, Coach Carter, Stand and Deliver, and Lean on Me are frequent and mainstream, but this indie-made film is something completely different. Even Frank is written on a smarter level than you'd expect, not a traditional villain.

Half Nelson is a film of shaded characterizations by excellent performers, and the plotline is mostly loose inferences and small moments, not big ones. As opposed to other "'hood" films, there's no gunfire, and potential violent confrontations don't go the expected route. The film also doesn't have a very strong ending (though it's clear the two main characters have turned corners in their lives). Indie filmmaking hallmarks like shaky camera movements and improv may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as discussion material, Half Nelson offers a lot more. It's also noteworthy as a serious feature with a young African-American female in a key role. Sadly, this remains rare in movies.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: August 11, 2006
  • On DVD or streaming: February 16, 2007
  • Cast: Anthony Mackie , Ryan Gosling , Shareeka Epps
  • Director: Ryan Fleck
  • Inclusion Information: Black actors
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 107 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: drug content throughout, language and some sexuality.
  • Last updated: October 3, 2023

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