Universal acclaim - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Superb drama from New York-based filmmakers Ryan Flek and Anna Boden.
  2. Half Nelson offers an opportunity to marvel, once again, at the dazzling talent of Ryan Gosling for playing young men as believable as they are psychologically trip-wired.
  3. 100
    What is different about Half Nelson is the execution, the kind of subtlety in writing, directing and acting (by costars Shareeka Epps and Anthony Mackie as well as Gosling) you seldom see.
  4. A dedicated, charismatic, crack-addicted history teacher is the most believable protagonist in an American movie this year.
  5. 91
    The movie lives in its small details.
  6. 91
    Gosling excels at playing contradictory characters like this one, having kick-started his career as a Jewish neo-Nazi in "The Believer," but here, his inner turmoil rarely gets vocalized. It's a remarkably subtle performance.
  7. 90
    At a time when most American movies, studio made or "independent," seem ever more divorced from anything approximating actual life experience, Half Nelson is so sobering and searingly truthful that watching it feels like being tossed from a calm beach into a raging current.
  8. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    The audacity of making an inner-city drama in which the white-male authority figure is the crackhead finds its equal in Gosling's already legendary performance, a high-wire act that's gutsiest for its unconscionable charm.
  9. What makes Half Nelson both an unusual and an exceptional American film, particularly at a time when even films about Sept. 11 are professed to have no politics, is its insistence on political consciousness as a moral imperative.
  10. No halves about it: Half Nelson is a wholly absorbing and delicately shaded portrait of an educator played by Ryan Gosling, a young man harboring an offstage secret.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    A compelling drama that establishes Ryan Gosling as one of the finest actors of his generation.
  12. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Gosling may be the soul of Half Nelson, but Epps is the film's heart.
  13. Best where it counts the most - in its recognition of how difficult it will be for Dan and Drey to turn their lives around.
  14. 83
    Gosling, who was amazing in "The Believer" but hasn't yet connected substantially with a big audience, continues to impress.
  15. Reviewed by: Gianni Truzzi
    Just in time for back-to-school, this smart film about a troubled teacher and student upends most movie images, both romantic and negatively stereotyped, of the urban classroom.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 169 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 56 out of 76
  2. Negative: 14 out of 76
  1. Mar 18, 2012
    One of my favorite movies! It is fresh, non-cliche, indie and touching at the same time. Ryan Gosling's performance is phenomenal, I'd say the best among all his other movies. I like how innocent and genuine Epps' performance was as well. Breath-taking! Characters are beautifully portrayed. Full Review »
  2. Jul 5, 2013
    Excellent acting all round. Two unlikely people come together: a teacher who can't find any meaning in his life and a young girl who has seen all the male figures in her life disappoint her. It's sounds far-fetched, but it's surprisingly realistic. It's slow, but its worth seeing. Full Review »
  3. Mar 31, 2013
    A bland soup of smug. As edgy as a satsuma and embarrassingly reverent. Half Nelson flogs a dead horse into a cliche paste. Ryan Gosling smoulders vacantly, as he is wont to do. Full Review »