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Detachment

Year: 2011
Production Co: Kingsgate Films
Director: Tony Kaye
Producer: Tony Kaye
Writer: Tony Kaye
Cast: Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks, Marcia Gay Harden, Blythe Danner, James Caan, Tim Blake Nelson, Bryan Cranston, Lucy Liu, Sami Gayle

Undoubtedly a passion project for Tony Kaye (American History X) and even though he was able to get some big names eager for the indie/dramatic cred, the film unfortunately didn't go very far.

It's a tale we've been told more than once about how tough inner city schools in impoverished areas are for the teachers in the face of students who are apathetic (and not the least scared of teachers these days because of the litany of behavioural restrictions) and parents who are hostile.

The scariest/strongest scene in the film is where an African American woman is in the school office screaming profanity and abuse at teacher Sarah (Hendricks) for expelling her daughter, the daughter herself looking on angrily and plainly relishing the punishment being meted out. We see in a brief flashback exactly what precipitated the event – Sarah's done something the young woman hasn't liked, prompting her to threaten to have the teacher 'pack raped' by her male friends and spitting in her face.

It's a horrible moment that gives Detachment a unique punch and makes it a darker, bleaker entry into the 'thankless teacher' genre than most so far.

The interspersing of a bearded Brody apparently talking about his adventures after it's all over doesn't add much but he plays substitute teacher Henry, posted to a very rough school. We see him making connections with some of the teachers and some of the students, including some that seem to be stereotypes at first glance but which are given enough room to develop as characters, especially the heartbreaking Meredith.

In the meantime he's dealing with the slow death of his father by dementia in a facility that won't take proper care of him, and he takes in a homeless young girl making a living as a hooker whose life he helps turn around before he has to break her heart too, seemingly like everyone in his transient life.

There are some weird embellishments, like that of Mr Wiatt (Tim Blake Nelson) always holding onto the chain link fence and looking off into the distance in either fear or peace, and not all of them add anything. But if you can see what to ignore it's the movie Hollywood always wants to make about teachers with no punches pulled.

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