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Next on Netflix: ‘A’ for ‘Detachment’

22 September 2013 By Eva Niessner, Staff Writer No Comments

Adrien Brody is no stranger to the deeply moving and the tragic, he got an Oscar for it in 2002’s “The Pianist.” But in “Detachment,” Brody brings his talents to a modern-day story of hopelessness and identity.

In the film, Brody plays Henry, a substitute teacher assigned to a classroom for a month in a school that is slowly sinking. The students don’t care about their futures, the teachers are depressed in the face of a system that they can’t fix, and Henry must learn to accept that he cannot save everyone.

That doesn’t mean he won’t try. In his time at the school, he meets a sensitive student named Meredith who’s desperate for a positive father figure, a young prostitute named Erica who thinks she’s in love with him, and a number of teachers who have given up the fight to help their students.

As time passes, Henry does whatever he can to try to help, but he is damaged as well, and the demons of his mother and grandfather won’t leave him alone. Henry is prone to fits of sadness or rage, and sometimes he hurts those who he’s trying to rescue. Still, he refuses to be bullied by the vicious kids in the class, and teaches them lessons about the real world. He encourages them to seek truth and to not be pushed around by those bigger than them.

It’s not a long movie (only 97 minutes), but it’s a heavy one. Woven in with Henry’s story are those of other teachers and administrators, all of whom are given personalities and motivation, and a reason for wilting away as the school fails. Some of the people Henry involves himself with end up much better for his efforts, and find a stable and happy place in their lives. But reality isn’t always pretty, and others end up far, far worse than he could have imagined.

The cast is phenomenal. It includes Lucy Liu as a counselor pushed to her limit, Christina Hendricks as a fellow teacher who doesn’t know if she can trust Henry, and Marcia Gay Harden as a principal who must face the consequences of how she has run her school.

Though the ending isn’t exactly the most cheerful—you’re still reeling from blows that have been dealt out of nowhere–it is ultimately positive. It wouldn’t be ridiculous to imagine that Henry has found a better place to a go and a way to deal with his issues after his time at the school is over.

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