Teachers have a hard job. Between the homework, the exam grading, the Monday to Friday job, taking care of a room full of others people's kids and trying to influence them in the most positive way possible. I can believe it's nerve wrecking and I will take this moment to thank all my teachers for putting up with my wild imagination and creative differences.
In Half Nelson, Ryan Gosling is Dan Dunne, a middle-school history professor trying to make a difference by teaching through the method of dialectics. He's also the coolest teacher you wished you had, as this method isn't a cut-and-dry approach to school subjects. He's also the girls basketball coach.
While it may seem he's in a perfect version of his life, behind it all is a man fighting, and failing, a drug addiction. At one point he gets caught by one his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps). From there, the barrier between teacher-student is broken, as they become close friends.
In the meantime, Drey lives in a complicated life situation, living with her single mother and a brother who's in prison, taking the fall for 'hood dealer Frank (Anthony Mackie). And while Frank isn't the violent type, he is still a necessary evil.
The friendship that develops between Dan and Drey is a bond of inspiration, as they help and inspire each other become better people, while knowing they should be apart, as they both consider themselves a bad influence. Dan's drug addiction doesn't help. In fact, it comes to a point where everything is in the gutter and nothing seems to help, other than the fact that more cocaine seems to be the solution.
Nevermind their racial differences, as while they both have their own beef with the problems in their social integration, they both deal with it in very similar ways.
Between the great soundtrack by Broken Social Scene and the amazing direction by Ryan Fleck, Half Nelson is a film that insists in sending a clear message: We're all worth believing in.