Sunday, September 9, 2012

Detachment (2012)

I have always strongly felt teachers must abstain from physically punishing students and find other ways to get there. So when I see how disrespectful kids in America are, I was in two minds. This may be a big stereotype but I am sure there's no exaggeration in those images. Teaching is probably the most thankless profession in existence. Most kids go through this rebellious phase and teachers unfortunately find themselves on the receiving end. One can blame it all on bad parenting but the truth is there may not be a way to completely quell this teenage angst. Also, this may never go away. Our problems may change in form and magnitude but shall always remain. We tell our kids to be more understanding and then go out and commit the same mistakes they did. The chain continues.. only the setting changes.

The job is so relentlessly demanding that teachers are popping pills to hold on to their sanity. Shaking the kids out of their apathy and inching closer to them is the hardest thing a teacher has to do in order to make some progress. But they are spit on, threatened, verbally abused making them wishing it would end when the school-bell rings. Is this relevant only in this particular school, which has been on a steep academic descent? Does the film paint an unfair picture of the state of  high-school education in America?

Henry's belief about the vanity of everything that surrounds us is absolutely true. We are overwhelmed with so much junk that consuming it every time we breathe has become the natural state of order. This makes it necessary to read more and developing our own vibrant imagination. The environment of school can be both restricting and fulfilling. It can make or break a kid and the responsibility falls in the hands of the teacher. For example, the young girl with a talent who is unappreciated at home and made fun of at school. I assume Henry took an interest in Literature with a little help from his grandfather- an old man filled with regret over a mistake he knowingly committed a long time ago. Henry knows that it stole him of a proper childhood, but is still very forgiving.

I saw shades of Taxi Driver and Half Nelson for the obvious reasons. I am assuming the film is set in New York but the place has little significance. Watching Henry help a seemingly hopeless Erica, played by a girl who looked like a young Mena Suvari with an Emma Watson hairdo, filled me with so much hope and optimism. It must be hard having nobody around to care for you. I couldn't of course relate to these kids out of my own life experiences, but I felt for them nonetheless. Unlike Half Nelson, where Gosling's character's habit had serious repercussions, Henry is trying to do good while fighting his demons which are, shall we say, too personal to have any impact on the life of people around him. At the end, Henry comes out untainted, as a hero of sorts, but in a losing cause. I say that because the film ultimately offers no solution at the end of its haunting, emotionally affecting journey.  I must confess I didn't get the bleak last shot showing Henry teaching to an empty, dilapidated classroom. But everything he does comes across as a selfless, good-hearted gesture. Henry, the substitute teacher, is like a miracle worker going from school to school setting things right.

Coming from three dead-awful movies, I appreciated all the little things. I found the interactions which take place inside the classroom very interesting. It has a stellar star cast, but most of them felt under-used.  At the end of the month, the young Black kid's change of heart felt a little too sudden. Brody is even better than he was in The Pianist.