Director Tony Kaye’s “Detachment” is a bitter depiction of the public school system that involves teachers, students, parents and humanity.
It’s not an easy movie to watch and definitely prides itself on the fact that it is a depressing portrait of damaged high-schoolers and one particularly contaminated educator.
Henry (Adrien Brody) is a remarkably talented teacher who jumps from school to school, never staying in one place for too long. He stands out over all other teachers at the schools he’s at because of his true talent in connected with his students. Henry takes a long term substitute position at a public school, where the administration is completely burned out and purposefully distances themselves from the troubled youth that take up the majority of the school.
Henry quickly becomes a role model at school and to one runaway teen he came across on the streets. After inviting the teenage girl, Erica (a break-out performance by Sami Gayle) into his home to fix her up, it seems as if Henry is capable to start truly caring and opening up to another human being again.
The film’s title refers to Henry’s condition, in that he can never emotionally connect to someone else for a long period of time because he doesn’t want to get too attached. But since he is a uniquely gifted teacher, why wouldn’t he want to utilize that talent and stick to one school overall?
The impressive supporting cast includes Marcia Gay Harden, as the principal, Lucy Liu, as the guidance counselor and Christina Hendricks and James Caan as fellow teachers. All played their parts perfectly, I just wish we saw more of them. However the film isn’t about the supporting cast of characters, it showcases Brody as the film’s protagonist and his performance is breathtaking to watch.
With all the suffering that goes on in the film, no one is aching as much as Henry. His grandfather is on the verge of death at a nursing home and he’s haunted by flashbacks of his alcoholic mother who committed suicide during his youth.
Screenwriter Carl Lund, a former teacher, attempts to put together an engaging story, but it mixes poorly with Kaye’s snappy edits and intense close-ups. The film tries too hard to pull at our heartstrings every ten minutes which gets exhausting to watch, however Brody’s fierce performance makes it at least watchable.
Brody can’t save the plot that goes from touching to the completely ridiculous and at times, disgusting. Horribly animated blackboard doodles of people hanging themselves take over the screen sporadically throughout the movie and it didn’t work with the natural flow of the film.
If you’re a fan of the Academy Award winner Brody, you may just enjoy the film, otherwise Detachment is so far off its rocker at times, it gets quite tiresome pretty quickly.