Yesterday was A Very Good Day for me, primarily because I got to do two things I really wanted to do, that were not directly related to either family or work, and that I didn’t think I was going to get time for.
I had been looking forward to going to the Raising the Roof Pancake Day Breakfast, which was supposed to be held on Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday… pancakes … you see?). It’s an annual event which is hosted and aired live by the CBC Morning Show, and which provides a nice pancake breakfast for $5 with all benefits going to organizations that help people find affordable housing here in St. John’s — organizations such as Choices for Youth (which is very near to my heart because several of our students are also Choices clients); the Stella Burry Foundation, the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, etc. Pancakes, live entertainment, and the chance to support good causes — what’s not to like about that?
The breakfast was postponed to Thursday because of the storm on Tuesday, and I wanted to go Thursday morning but with Christopher still home sick from school and all the other complications of morning with work and children, I didn’t think I could make it. But at 7:15, as I was listening to the live show on the radio and explaining to Emma what was going on, she said, “Let’s let Dad stay home with Chris and we’ll go!” Which we did. We had to hurry and couldn’t linger long over our pancakes because Emma had to get to school and I to work, but we enjoyed being at an event that has such great community spirit. Plus, two of my students who are also Choices clients performed — reading poetry, rapping, reading a scene from a play — so I was glad to be there to be able to support them and tell them they did a great job.
Then in the evening, right about suppertime, I happened to be on the MUN website and noticed that the MUN cinema series was showing the movie Half Nelson, which I have been wanting to see for ages but which never came out in the theatres here (it’s on DVD now, but I really wanted to see it on the big screen). On the spur of the moment, with no-one to go with and not even sure I could make it on time because Jason was out doing messages and I didn’t know when he’d be back, I decided to try to go see it. I just barely made it in time, and I’m so glad I did because it was an amazing movie.
I was almost happier that I went alone because it was a movie that I wanted some time to absorb, and I’m not sure I would have been ready to answer, “How did you like it?” on the way out of the theatre. It’s powerful, aborbing, very well-written and acted, disturbing and thought-provoking. It starts out as if it’s going to be a typical inspiring-young-teacher-in-an-inner-city-school movie, but it’s very not that, becuause the inspiring young teacher, played by Ryan Gosling, is also a drug addict, and his 13-year-old student, Drey (Shareeka Epps) shares his secret after she finds him smoking crack in a school bathroom. The powerful friendship that unfolds between the two of them is the most interesting depiction of a teacher-student relationship that I’ve ever seen onscreen, or in a book for that matter. The story doesn’t veer into the obvious territory of sexual exploitation, but it does depict a relationship that’s inappropriate, difficult, and real — portrayed by two actors who completely inhabit the roles.
I am so not a film buff, and I really don’t watch a lot of indie films. Frankly, I could do without the indie-film standbys of handheld ShakyCam, extreme closeups, and things being out of focus. I watch a great film like Half Nelson and I wonder, “Why can’t we have the brilliant writing and acting, the thought-provoking themes, the realistic moral ambiguity — and also be able to see everything clearly, just like in a Hollywood movie?” Guess I just will never understand cinematography.
ShakyCam and all, Half Nelson is a must-see for anyone who likes thought-provoking movies and who doesn’t mind a fair dose of sex, drugs and language (not much sex, but a bit — and a lot of drug use). The ending is not despairing or hopeless, but it’s also not “heartwarming and inspiring” in an obvious Hollywood way. It never takes the easy way out, but dives right into the messy reality of life. I’m so glad I managed to squeeze two hours into the frozen landscape of this week to catch this movie on the one and only night of its big-screen release in St. John’s!