Too Close for Comfort
Getting close to other people and caring about them can be dangerous, so the main character in Detachment has chosen to make his living as a substitute teacher who goes from one school to another, thereby minimizing that threat. This powerful drama reveals the thoughts and feelings of Henry Barthes, played by Adrien Brody, during his three-week assignment in a high school filled with troubled teachers, administrators and students. Although ugliness seeps through scene after scene here, I remained totally absorbed throughout the film. And imagine my surprise at being rewarded toward the end of the movie with one of the most emotionally beautiful and satisfying sequences in many a year. Youíll know it when you see it, for sure!
Brody (Oscar winner for The Pianist) makes the most of his role as a man afraid of emotional entanglements and yet drawn into them as a result of his latest assignment. To me, heís never been better. Because Brody also narrates the film, we hear his smooth, expressive voice a lot -- and that adds considerably to the filmís appeal for me. A fine supporting cast also helps. Just take a look at this line-up: Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, William Petersen, Lucy Liu, Tim Blake Nelson, Blythe Danner and Isiah Whitlock Jr. However, teenage Sami Gayle from TVís Blue Bloods outshines almost everyone with a debut film performance that should start her on the road to A-list stardom. And another young newcomer, Betty Kaye, will break your heart.
Detachment, directed by Tony Kaye (American History X) from a first screenplay by Carl Lund, paints an extremely disturbing picture of education today -- too many disrespectful, mean, apathetic, violent students as well as teachers, counselors and administrators who have given up. Parental neglect/abuse, reliance on test scores and lack of funding are also depicted. Thereís enough blame to go around, and itís not a pretty sight. No Glee choral numbers, no Take the Lead dance classes, no spirited High School Musical routines liven up the screen. In fact, Detachment makes Blackboard Jungle look like a trip to Disneyland.
If Detachment is such a dark film, why has it earned so many honors on the festival circuit (Deauville Film Festival Critics Award, Sao Paolo International Film Festival Audience Award, Woodstock Film Festival Honorary Maverick Award, etc.)? Perhaps because it deals with finding beauty in an ugly world. The movieís involving story, intriguing characters, and expert direction probably helped too.
(Released by Tribeca Film; not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about Detachment, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.