Half Nelson

What is history? Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) asks.

Change moves in spirals, not circles. For example, the sun goes up and then it goes down. But everytime that happens, what do you get? You get a new day. You get a new one. When you breathe, you inhale and you exhale, but every single time that you do that you’re a little bit different then the one before. We’re always changing. And its important to know that there are some changes you can’t control and that there are others you can. – Dan

I don’t know why but this film has been on my mind these few days.

Half Nelson is a 2006 film starring Ryan Gosling. It’s kind of indie, it’s kind of slow, and I only picked it up because I heard Gosling was fantastic in it.

Ryan Gosling stars as this inner-city teacher, Dan, teaching in a high school. Inside the classroom, he uses unconventional teaching methods to inspire his students to look at history in a new way.

He’s charismatic and brilliant in the classroom. But outside of it, Ryan is a junkie. He started taking drugs as a way to escape the pain of life, and now he’s a drug addict spending most of his time either on a high or seeking it.

Ironic, then, that a teacher who inspires his students to challenge conventional thinking is one who need drugs to escape reality. That while he teaches his students to defy society, he’s someone who has already been defeated by it.


Can it be possible to compartmentise two sections of your life to a point where your bad habits doesn’t destroy the rest of your life?

In the movie Dan couldn’t do it. His student caught him during his drug high and eventually his behaviour caused him his job.

There’s a monologue he had in the movie that I really felt deeply for. He related how he used to be worse; that drug rehabilitation didn’t work for him, but now he’s in better control of his habit because the kids, the students he taught, kept him going.

I guess I’ve always believed that for all the vices I’ve, I am always in control of them. By that I mean that if push comes to shove, I would be able to stop, and though it may be disconcerting and a hard habit to break, I won’t die from the lack of it.

I don’t know whether it’s true or not. You don’t know your limits until it has been tested. And better yet… whether you feel the urge to stop.