Half Nelson

Director: Ryan Fleck
Screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Institute History


Ryan Fleck returns to Sundance with Half Nelson, a feature-length version of his Jury Prize-winning short, Gowanus, Brooklyn, that looks at an unlikely friendship that brings hope to a man trapped by his own demons.

Dan Dunne is an idealistic inner-city junior high school teacher. Though he can get it together in the classroom, he spends his time outside school on the edge of consciousness. He juggles his hangovers and his homework, keeping his lives precariously separated, until one of his troubled students, Drey, catches him in a compromising situation. From this awkward beginning, Dan and Drey stumble into an unexpected friendship that threatens either to undo them, or to provide the vital change they both need to move forward in their lives.

Half Nelson neither condemns nor sanctions Dan's actions, but rather depicts characters who are "wrestling" with various aspects of themselves and their roles in the larger world around them. Ryan Gosling perfectly renders Dan, imbuing him with layers and dimensions rarely seen in film. Equally exciting is newcomer Shareeka Epps's performance as Drey; she displays a remarkable ability to convey both wisdom and innocence. Fleck has delicately crafted a film about the universal struggle to achieve vital change in one's life—and also about the role friendship can play in that struggle.

(Archives note: see also Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden's Meet The Artist interview on our YouTube Channel.)

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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