Review: Half Nelson (2006)

Directed by writer-director team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Half Nelson centers on an inter-city high school teacher (Gosling) with a drug habit who forms an unlikely bond with one of his students (Epps).

Boden and Fleck’s direction is impressive, managing to capture the action in an unsentimental and raw manner that’s brimming with humanity and emotional depth.

The relationship between Dan and Drey is pushed to the forefront as both find common-ground with each other through the problems they harbor as they battle to reach their own personal resolutions.

Through the awkward and bleak tone of the film humour erupts naturally, breaking the tension and enabling the audience to emote with and relate to the characters’ problems and hard-hitting themes of addiction, loneliness and acceptance that are explored through the films hard-hitting premise.

Gosling gives a stunning and mesmerising performance as the drug addict teacher, distinguishing this film from others of its nature and warranting his much-deserved Academy Award nomination.

Half Nelson is a well-balanced, brilliantly acted and refreshingly humorous study into the rarity of second chances.

Review: It’s Kind Of A Funny Story (2010)

Based on a teen novel by author Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story is a new comedy-drama from the hotly-tipped writer-director team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson).

The film centers on a clinically depressed teenager, Craig (Keir Gilchrist), who gets a new start when he checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward after contemplating suicide.

It’s Kind Of A Funny story marks the first time Boden and Fleck have not worked from their own material and the lack of character development and authenticity of the plot is noticeable from the offset.

It’s a light comedy that, although managing to avoid common cliches of the genre, ultimately feels too simplistic, cherry-topping the severity of mental health issues, making them somewhat feel implausible and negligible.

A common trait of this is whenever characters’ health issues are touched upon the direction of the film suddenly switches, as if the writers are sidestepping the underlying complexity of the films premise, instead focusing on the unconvincing relationships between the central characters.

Boden and Fleck can’t be blamed for the writing, but their handling of the material often feels dull and laborious, something that makes the film ultimately monotonous a waste to its audience. It almost seems as though they’ve regressed after the sublime, authentic Half Nelson.

The cast, on the other hand – lead by Gilchrist, Emma Roberts and Zach Galifianakis – boast likeable, dynamic and intermittently convincing performances with the material they have. It’s just a shame they’re let down by an incoherent script, detached direction and inconceivably unbelievable character relations.

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story is an agonisingly bland, contradictory and unoriginal film. The only glimmer of hope for Boden and Fleck’s future comes from the respectable performances and Broken Social Scene’s breezy, equivocal soundtrack.