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You are in for a world of hurt
dschmeding26 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Wow! I was not expecting this movie to be this engaging. Its one of those films that leave you sitting in silence for a while when the credits roll much like excellent Dramas like "Requiem for a dream" or "Downloading Nancy".

This one spells it out pretty clear with the line "Henry Barthes is all of us"... its hard to grasp how the realization that we are indeed all the same can be so painful.

On the surface "Detachment" deals with the crumbling American education system through the eyes of substitute teacher Henry Barthes (played by Adrian Brody) who starts a new assignment in a new school with new teachers, in a new class with new pupils like he is obviously used to.

The beginning shows him trying to get into this new class around the bullies threatening him and other pupils, making it hard to teach anything. At first it looks like all those "good teacher turns around a bad class" movies but its not. You soon realize that the school is just the backdrop for a larger story about a teacher who tries to do his job by taking a role outside the play. Barthes makes clear that he is hollow and words can't hurt him which is his way of coping with a hopeless situation by neglecting his private life and detaching from the world. Like him every teacher seems to have developed his individual coping mechanism. For some its cynicism and dark humor, "happy pills" are regularly mentioned too and for others its just swallowing their emotions until they erupt. You see the teachers coping with their daily routine while hearing an answering machine in the background every now and then with other teachers resigning or parents shouting for better grades for their kids.

Its pretty tough stuff seeing kids void of hope, interest or enthusiasm and teachers trying to get to the few who are still to be reached in the classroom. But its here where it all falls apart because of hollow politics, parents that do not care or are just as dysfunctional as the kids they raised and dropped into the public education system and idiotic social rules and conventions we are all used to. When you see the pattern in all the peoples private lives and their desperate tries of holding on its obvious that "Detachment" is not just about the public school system but about our whole society, about each and every one of us.

When Barthes meets a young street hooker he decides to take her in with him and do his job outside school. Its quite heartbreaking to see him trying to make a change against all odds. At times Barthes comes across like a modern day Jesus when he sleeps on the floor of his small apartment and lets the girl sleep in bed. Some might say that "Detachment" is too light on the teachers because most of the blame falls onto parents and politicians. There is hardly an unsympathetic teacher in this movie. Yet there are scenes that show Barthes is no Jesus at all... like when he violently shouts at a nurse in a retirement home after an incident with his dying grandfather. Barthes is indeed like all of us, cracking when he struggles to cope and lashing out to get out the pressure, just like the parents at school push their pressure to the teachers.

And this is where the detachment cracks... amidst all the failures Barthes manages to connect to the girl, as well as to an outcast girl at school. And he connects through emotion and personal attachment but soon has to realize that it does not work. The scenes of him sending away the girl to a foster home when he tells her he cannot be her family or when he has do send away the outcast girl when she tries to share her sorrow with him are gut-wrenching. There are so many honest and deeply emotional scenes in this movie its hard to keep track. His grandfathers death with his total forgiving, Barthes monologues trying to make the pupils understand why they need basic education for their own sake are as brilliant as Lucy Lius Characters breakdown in which she shouts out her desperation and sadness towards a seemingly not caring girl.

The relationship between Barthes and the girl is stunning and constantly rocked by misunderstandings... plain because you don't expect it to be non-sexual with all the pedophile stories, sexual harassment laws and stereotypes. But against all odds it is and you realize that when there are no parents (like in the haunting "parents night" scenes with teachers waiting and no one coming) someone else must fill this void... how empty have we become that we cannot expect someone to help out of honest interest for his fellow man... or rather child?!

"Detachment" is a bleak and painful movie but it has some hope and even some humor (the cynic teachers way of teaching a girl about the dangers of STD with a picture of a rainbow and a picture of a disease ridden vagina is one of those much needed lighter moments).

Its like when Barthes says in one of his many off commentaries... life is an ocean of chaos and the realization that you are the one supposed to throw the buoy while struggling to stay afloat is devastating. But its the honesty about his own struggle that makes him connect with others. Its when they realize we indeed are all the same, all struggling and they are not alone in their strife that gives them their humanity. But thats what life is... so what can you do but be honest and hope for the best.... Its all going to be OK!
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Touching, an inspiration to change.
Emmytjuh_klein6 March 2012
A story about a teacher who wants to make a difference. Very touching story with some twisted story lines about real life. It makes you see how hard life can be for a lot of adolescents. Of course, the people in this movie project some of the saddest life stories and not everybody has it this hard, but I think a lot of people can recognize some of the life problems of this movie.

Adrien Brody projects the right emotions at the right time in the movie. Sadness, happiness, joy and trauma, every feeling has its place in this movie. The use of real students and an existing school in combination with great filming gives the viewer the feeling its all real. A quality that makes a movie great.

The movie inspired me. I'm a elementary school teacher and I see a lot of kids, sometimes heading in the wrong direction. It gave me a feeling of hope and drive to help these children, even if it seems hopeless.

Please, go and see this wonderful movie!
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Windswept and desolate school hallways
iblogamerica26 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The truth about high school is that it's worse than you remember it.

Watching Tony Kaye's enthralling "Detachment," you can't help compare your high school to the one on screen. You remember the terrible teachers you had, the sterile hallways, the asinine classmates, and the absurd assignments. You can remember the "weight that presses on everyone" as Mr. Henry Barthes, played by Adrien Brody, tells his class.

"If you can just hang on, everything will be alright." Mr. Barthes is that hero teacher that we love tell stories about. He's the Christ, the Buddha. He's meant to save us from ourselves.

The problem? Mr. Barthes is a great teacher because he has no life outside of teaching. Like Socrates, Christ, Buddha, Gandhi, and countless other mythologized teachers, Barthes is a detached island to himself, without spouse, children, or personal life. He's a lonely dude.

As a public school teacher sitting in the audience at the world premiere last night in Tribeca, I have mixed feelings about telling you that Tony Kaye has masterfully succeeded in capturing public school in a macabre and beautiful chalkboard sketch. His lush, mannerist portrait brings a gorgeous but searing light to the lonely reality of the teaching profession. Mr. Kaye's "Detachment" presents school the way so many of us on the inside see it: a windswept wasteland scourged of its humanity by a culture that burdens its underfunded and unfairly censured teachers with rearing, policing, and institutionalizing our children.

I hate to say it: public school really is this bad. The few great teachers that our system manages to attract are barely hanging on from year to year, knocked senseless by a society that demands way too much from them.

Adrien Brody is riveting as a seemingly serene but deeply damaged substitute teacher. His sloping eyebrows, sometimes treacly or overwrought in other performances, here convey an- inch-from-the-cliff hopelessness without ever becoming a mask. Mr. Brody's Henry Barthes is sweetly but searingly honest with his students even as sadly skulks among the halls of his school. Barthes is also furious-- enough to throw desks in his classroom and scream at a late night nurse at his grandfather's assisted care facility. In close-up, documentary-style interviews, Mr. Brody's eyes flash like lightning one moment and then become as dull as concrete the next, daring us to try to understand how one can care so much and so little. His Barthes has a teacher's countenance in this film, acutely aware of how important yet futile his work is. It's a career performance.

Barthes' determination to be disconnected keeps him the perennial substitute-- in the classroom and in his personal life. Barthes tends to his grandfather but has more than enough time to help out two young girls, a young prostitute and an overweight loner. Despite his earnest efforts, almost none of it works out well. The complicating plot lines, all involving family surrogacy around Barthes, serve the notion that teachers must be dispassionate and alone in order to perform their jobs. The story survives its few yet regrettable school clichés by sticking to this thesis.

Despite the fact that the number of big names threatens to make the movie look like a cameo-fest (Lucy Liu? Christina Hendricks? Marcia Gay Harden? Blythe Danner? James Caan? Really?), the ensemble gels together surprisingly well. After all, weren't your teachers an impossible cast of characters? Every character seems just barely above water as each trudges to the blunt beat of the school bells ringing. The performances are just fine, largely, but two are particularly successful. While Mr. Caan's grinning jester provides a refreshingly necessary gallows' humor in some of the film's darkest moments, it's Ms. Liu's imploding truth-teller that lends undeniable heft to the story. As a guidance counselor faced with yet another unreachable know-it-all teen, Ms. Liu's character finally breaks down, berating the student with a bleak prophecy of the child's future. "You will NOT be a model! You will forever be on a carousel, competing with 80% of the country for a minimum wage job for the rest of your life!" the guidance counselor screams uselessly at the apathetic teen.

It's grim stuff, made more grave by the undeniable ring of truth.

The ancient Greeks tell us "we suffer our way to wisdom." By the end of the film, you'll hope that is true for most of these characters. Somewhere on screen, between a silent hug and the opening lines to Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher," you will find a glimmer of hope. But you have to work for it.

School, as the film has drawn it, is a Munch-esque desert of detachment where the best anyone (teachers and students) can do is survive. But the fact that Barthes, and teachers like him, won't give up-- and the fact that Mr. Kaye made this movie-- tells us that hope is alive, if not well.

The hope rests almost entirely in our lonely, detached teachers.
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Best Movie of 2011
feguiza27 November 2011
Saw this at a local film festival with little to no information about the movie whatsoever; little did I know this was going to become my favorite film of the year, and that's saying a lot given that 2011 has been a blast for moviegoers with new products by Woody Allen, Terrence Malick, Lars Von Trier and Clint Eastwood.

The movie revolves around an poignant substitute teacher (perfectly played by Adrien Brody) who arrives at a vicious school, where students go around bullying people (including the teachers) and basically throwing their lives directly to the dumpster…you know, teenage angst and such…I didn't grow up in the USA, so two important things I must say, a) I don't know if this is an accurate depiction of any given school in America and b) I can't relate with the overall chronicle, which brings me to my next point.

The beauty of this movie comes within the subtext, whether you can directly relate with the characters or not, the movie takes the message and widens its range so everyone is able to understand the actual meaning of the film. Let's clear things out, this film is not about a school or the basis of education, this is about trying our best not to give a damn about others as most of us just go around doing everything in our power to be happy ourselves with a lousy job, a loveless marriage, a constant sense of abandonment or basically a crappy life (all of the above portrayed marvelously in the film).

Films by Tony Kaye tend to be really visceral with a thin slice of optimism in the undertones, I think this time he just went mental about everything, in the end you'll leave the theater with a slight sense of hopelessness, almost as if you're destined to watch daily misery without the power to control anything but your own life, as if the only battle you must fight is the constant reminder that even when everything falls apart and slowly turns into dust, you can't change the world, you just have to avoid the world from changing you…This exposed stunningly in the final sequence of the movie.

Do yourself a favor, watch this film!
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A Glimpse into the Reality of Life
joshh83-283-1718376 March 2012
So many people are broken and hurt. Many fear of getting too close in order to keep from getting hurt once more....

This movie is fantastic look into the brokenness of people in society, along with our need as humans for affirmation and too belong. It not only has an artistic side, but this movie is so real in many ways, which everyone (or at least most) can relate too.

I highly enjoy this film and is yet another brilliant role played by Adrian Brody, quite possibly his best role and story since "The Pianist." The supporting cast was also great.

My opinion on this film may be biased, solely on the fact that I only enjoy films that touch the heart and soul (or at least makes me think/feel) and this is one film that made me want to go out and change the world for the better.

This film is well worth while to watch from beginning to end. The Academy needs to look into nominated Adrian Brody for an Oscar with this performance. One of the few movies that I would watch over again with a friend and well worth your while.

I can see why it won so many awards at Film Festivals.
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An Amazing Movie
jbw22429 February 2012
I was having a slow day at work and was able to download this film which i did mainly because I think Adrien Brody is a phenomenal actor. I sat and watched this movie and was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. The acting by the adult stars was so crisp that they each did their characters well, from Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks, James Caan (who played the part to a tee of many teachers out there today...)and all the rest. The kids led by Sammi Gayle (who should get more story lines on Blue Bloods) and Betty Kaye with that very small but well written part for Rene Felice Smith brought this story to the top for me. The story was outstanding and really put things about our lives and even our education system in focus. This film deserves your attention and I think any awards it has received have been well deserved. I am adding this film to one of the top films I have seen in the last few years...Kudos to Mr. Brody......
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Desperation and Despondency as a Wakeup Call
Chris_Pandolfi23 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I had no idea how ill prepared I was to experience "Detachment." Here is a film that plunges headfirst into the depths of disillusionment, despair, and failure and almost never resurfaces for air. You will experience emotions normally repressed during movie watching. You will be saddened, shocked, and above all, angered. You will see things you wouldn't ever want to see and hear things that should never be heard. You will wade through a sea of bleakness, desperately searching for some small shred of hope to cling on to. At the end of it all, you will be so psychologically drained that, for a time, it may seem as if you will never be happy again. At the same time, you will also get to thinking, and that's exactly why I'm recommending this movie so highly.

A few months ago, I snubbed my nose at the critically acclaimed thriller "The Grey," an equally hopeless and depressing but also nihilistic story about men who must fight against wolves, and themselves, in the snowy Alaskan wilderness. Unlike that film, which reduced its compelling ideas into a cheap and shallow thriller, "Detachment" uses its desperation and despondency to make a point. I don't see it as a movie so much as a wakeup call, a way for audiences to understand not just the world but themselves as well. At its essence, it's an examination of behaviors that are perpetuated by people that have the power to stop it. It might not seem like they have the power. In fact, it might seem like absolutely everything is working against them. There's no question that rising above adversity is a challenge. Nevertheless, it's one that must be faced.

The main setting is an inner city public high school, one that exemplifies with horrifying detail the failure of the No Child Left Behind act of 2001. Most of the students are poorly educated, violent, and foulmouthed. They have no respect for others, but more to the point, they have no respect for themselves. They have, in fact, degenerated into pure apathy. This has rubbed off on the faculty, for they know that all their years of teaching and guidance haven't made the slightest difference. They're constantly berated by furious parents for being so lousy at their jobs. It's almost as if they have relinquished themselves of the responsibility of actually raising their own children. Is your son or daughter a problem? Don't take the necessary steps of working towards a solution – simply dump them off at school and let the teachers do the dirty work.

Bearing witness to all of this is a substitute teacher Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody). He struggles to make a difference, all the while knowing that he's failing miserably. He sees nothing but people who have given up, and he's within of inch of giving up on himself. His personal life is a mess; his grandfather (Louis Zorich), in the advances states of some kind of dementia, languishes in a nursing home staffed by people who simply don't care. He has flashbacks of a childhood scarred by the absence of a father, an alcoholic mother, and a deep tragedy. He eventually takes in an underage prostitute named Erica (Sami Gayle). He's saddened by her situation and even helps her in a few important regards, but he doesn't coddle her like a frightened puppy. He wants to get through to her that she has value as a person, that she's so much better than giving oral sex to men on the bus. He's also tortured by the fact that their arrangement can't last forever.

Several distinguished actors make appearances in this film, mostly as faculty members. These would include Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Blake Nelson, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Christina Hendricks, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Bryan Cranston, and William Petersen. All are in various stages of professional and personal breakdown; Nelson plays a teacher who isn't noticed by anyone, Caan plays an administrator who can only get through the day on medication and biting wit, and Harden plays a woman who knows that the end is near. In one of the best scenes, Liu lashes out at a student for her disrespect and indifference at her own future. She gets nothing but kids like this day in and day out. What is the point of pointing out their academic shortcomings when they obviously won't take the steps to better themselves?

Of all the actors that appeared in the film, the most compelling is Betty Kaye as a student named Meredith, who observes the school through the lens of her camera. She creates dark collages with her photos. Her creativity is labeled by her unseen but clearly heard father as unnecessary teen angst. Believing only beautiful people are worthy of attention, he cruelly harps on her about her overeating, the way she dresses, and her social isolation. Meredith, an intelligent young woman, makes a connection with Barthes. Unfortunately, her self-esteem is so low that she misinterprets his encouragement as personal affection.

The film intercuts linear scenes with multiple narrative techniques, none more resonant than Barthes' documentary-style confessionals. The final scene begins with him reading the opening sentences from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," which should already tell you everything you need to know. The message of "Detachment" is simply one of responsibility and caring. If you're a parent, nurture your children and allow them to be themselves. Don't expect a school system to raise them for you – as they say, education begins at home. Before you point out someone else's flaws, first recognize your own. Understand that you're not perfect. Be thoughtful of others. And above all, know that you matter. There is no tragedy deeper than giving up on yourself.

-- Chris Pandolfi (
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Wow wonderful film
bobmichigan125 February 2012
Terrence Malick should take a look at this movie to understand how art films are supposed to be made not just images reflecting on a screen but real emotions included. This was an outstanding movie and in my eyes should of got more recognition and probably the Best Picture of 2011. Adrian Brodys deserved a nomination for his performance as a substitute teacher who does not want a full time gig because he does not want to be emotionally attached to his students. He shows real raw emotion in his position.

I just want to say props to the director who did an outstanding job not trying to be too artsy and trying to make all viewers happy instead of one group of viewers. By far the best movie I have seen from 2011.
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Disturbing and compelling; highly recommend
chicchien8-302-48120725 February 2012
I haven't seen a movie that drew me in to this extent in a long time. Extremely well written, directed, cast, acted ,edited etc. with all of the team talent that it takes to make a great film. Yes, there are a couple of "predictable" story lines. Ultimately, that doesn't matter at all . Watch it and get past them. It's not just a slam about the American school system. It's about how the flaws that all of us have affect us and others. Now I'm just annoyed by the fact that I have to write 10 lines in order to recommend this film . I guess that I can say that I was really surprised to see that American Express was one of the sponsors above the title. Now, just go see it !
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Excellent Cinematic Experience!
ssamsonk18 March 2012
What an excellent cinematic experience! Tony Kaye has done an excellent job portraying the 'existential angst' that all of us feel at sometime or the other. If emotions were like colors on a palette, the movie is a painting masterpiece. The pain and suffering that each character goes through; the search of an identity, the burden of past mistakes, redemption and forgiveness, the heart-wrenching pain of separation and the exuberant joy of reunion and so much more...It really made me feel that through this project, the actors and everyone else associated with this movie would have actually experienced 'the weighing down' effect of living that we all feel one or the other time. It had a deep impact on me. After watching this movie, I felt that I have a responsibility to do something to reduce human suffering. If not anything else at least a prayer. Thank you Tony & Adrien for an emotionally charged, thought-provoking experience!
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An unnerving yet brilliant account of the education system and its teachers
leereddy4 May 2012
As classroom dramas go this may well be one the finest I have ever seen. A compelling insight into Americas failing education system and the beleaguered teachers that inhabit it.

The story centres around Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher who spends three weeks at a high school where the students are as troubled as their teachers. Barthes, portrayed brilliantly by Adrien Brody, finds himself surrounded by individuals who have become jaded to the point of breaking.

His tale becomes even more complex when a chance encounter with a teenage prostitute, Erica, develops into an unconventional friendship. It's within this custodial dynamic that we see some of the films most poignant and heartbreaking moments, as well as some outstanding acting from Sami Gayle, who plays the vulnerable young girl that society has abandoned.

The film employs a three part cutaway technique with Henry Barthes providing a narrative in the form an interview, as well as flashbacks to his childhood - which allows us an insight into why he such a brooding and melancholic character. The flashbacks are often juxtaposed with scenes involving Barthes grandfather with whom he visits in hospital through out the film. The third cutaway is an animated chalkboard sequence which I felt conveyed a sense of culpability and lost innocence.

The film also boasts an extraordinary supporting cast; including James Caan, Marcia Gay Harden and a very brief appearance from Bryan Cranston, as well as a surprisingly fine turn from Lucy Liu- the schools doctor. The staffs sense of disillusionment and frustration, due to the students perpetual indifference to their own fate, is vented brilliantly by Liu in a scene that begs the question; "where, and when, did it all go wrong?"

Though dealing with very bleak subjects and despite the characters ceaseless sense of defeat and abject loathing for their profession, there are still some heart warming moments in the film. And though it offers no suggestion as to how we can amend such failings in our education system, and that parenting has in so many avenues of society become bereft of any moral guidance and adequacy, it still left me reassured that there are those who are still prepared to undertake such a daunting and thankless task.

If you're looking for an entertaining piece then I suggest you look elsewhere, but if you wish to see a brilliantly thought provoking film that raises more questions than it provides answers, and you're prepared for some uncomfortable moments, then you'll be rewarded with a film that is excellently written and directed and has some outstanding performances. A great film!
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A powerful and disturbing (but necessary) film
gregcarttar3 October 2011
I saw this at Woodstock Film Festival, a few months after it premiered at Tribeca. I had the pleasure of driving Tony to the screening, and decided that I would stay for a few minutes to see the opening few minutes of the film, after seeing just a few seconds of it during the tech rehearsal earlier. After 30 seconds, I was hooked and could not get away. This film needs to be seen, people need to understand the conditions and circumstances presented in it of urban school environments; the trials that teachers and students face everyday, and the ravages wrought by "No Child Left Behind". The role played by Sami Gayle is astonishing, where she found that character is beyond me. I gave it a 9 our of 10 only because there were some scene-break graphics in the film that, while making sense, seemed to me to break the flow of the film. A must see. Tough to watch in places, but necessary.
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A Masterpiece
Stewball19 April 2012
I saw this originally in a theater and then again on VOD. I loved it right off and rated it a 9, but it was a movie I just couldn't get off my mind. The cast was outstanding, especially Brody, and the one that kept bringing my thoughts back to it, Toni Gayle as Erica in her first feature film performance. As the director Tony Kaye said, hers was the first character he cast because she is the central pin for the story--amazing given a cast loaded with familiar faces and names and incredible talent.

I can't say too much about the story without spoiling it. It does have memorable dialogue, a very interesting story, and humor is not absent but I think is suffers with audiences because the central character, Brody, is a deep person with a lot to offer but is stuck in a sad, shallow outward personality. If I'd had to leave before the end, I might well not have gone back to finish it. Others have watched it thinking it was going to be another "American History X", but they're just two different movies, both with something big to say, this more so even than X in my opinion. My only minuscule nit to pick is I'd rather have had Brody do the head shots as voice over narration. Above all, if I didn't say anything else I'd say this....stick with it.

The only flaw associated with this movie given all is positives is criminally atrocious marketing. It's like displaying Van Gogh's "Starry Night" in the basement of the Museum of Modern Art where only the occasional patron wanders in and happens to lift its covering. To help the reader judge how I weigh film ratings, I've seen between 5-10,000 movies, but this is only my 14th 10/10.
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Viewing Mandatory!
gnsweetprince27 December 2012
Images and words from this amazing film, haunt my memories and have seeped past my heart into my soul.

This film should be mandatory viewing for every politician, voter, teacher, parent and high school student. I'm afraid for my children. I'm afraid for my future. Teachers, students and parents deserve better, but that would require all citizens doing better, a task which I'm afraid may just be too great.

"No Child Left Behind" is a joke. The good teachers need better pay, more latitude, respect and support. The teachers with attitudes, burn-out, or just horrid teachers, need to be saved from themselves and put on the road to a better life. Creativity, imagination, individual strengths should be encouraged. Let our teachers teach instead of spouting the rhetoric they're forced to do, so their pupils can score high on state assessments. Teach our children well for everyone's future, not just so you can hang another ribbon on your chest or plaque on the school wall.

Enough of my diatribe, watch it yourself.
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ubiquitous assimilation!!
bonzybino29 February 2012
Detachment is a dark movie which everyone can relate with, the solitariness, the cynicism, the despair and the darker shades of our lives which we cover with many other things. It doesn't end on a good note unlike the common genre movies - it could have easily drifted that way to be more appealing. But then who's gonna live happily forever!!

Though the education system and the schools and the students ain't that evil and rotten the way its shown in the movie, it does pose many a question, the dubious system in which everything goes on without a point. The miserable life of teachers were beautifully shown, yes they do go through worse situations. Adrien Brody does something meaty after pianist as the cool, composed and ailing substitute teacher. The climax was so dramatic and metaphorical, the background score adds value to the visual richness.

The screenplay is too dark at times, the lighter moments and the virtuous elements highly underplayed though it saves the movie many a time from drowning. I loved the way the narration takes us through, we feel the pain the characters are going through. Wish had it been lighter in content with some thing which kindled a ray of virtue somewhere, Alas! but that's the way it is..
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What's happening in our schools?
ritewater0616 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Got a last second seat to see this at Tribeca and it was terrific. I wasn't prepared for such an intense roller coaster, but I was very moved. Adrien Brody gives his best performance since The Pianist and what a supporting cast…James Caan is hilarious, Marcia Gay Harden is amazing, and Lucy Liu (of all people) is so vulnerable…I didn't know she was capable of that. It seems like actors we have come to rely on for solid performances decided to experiment and step outside their comfort zone, under the direction of Tony Kaye (American History X).

The film itself is a harsh look at the realities facing inner city schools. Brody plays a substitute journeyman teacher, Henry Barthes, who (a little too Dangerous Minds) connects with his misguided students… but as opposed to trying to confront his students or make them read poetry (like 5 million other lame movies), he seems to share his own pain and anger with the world in order to connect..It really works. On them, and on us.

I don't want to give anything away, but this is a film that confronts both psychological and physical tragedy, where every character seems to be up against their own feeling of helplessness…students, teachers, administration, and a young prostitute who doesn't attend school that Henry decides to help. One especially powerful scene is Parent/Teacher night. Shocking, subtle, and effortless. That's how I would describe this whole movie.

Ultimately, Detachment was very thorough at examining the ins and outs of the schools problems through individuals and as a collective. But it also feels like a character piece about this tormented substitute. The movie jumps a little too much (maybe), but I don't really care. Tony Kaye does what he does best here, delivers a gritty, edgy, shocking, and ultimately important film. This is a director that should be making more films. I hope to see Detachment in theaters soon and I hope some of these performers will be in the conversation come awards season…they deserve it.
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Depressive View of a Sick and Dysfunctional Society
claudio_carvalho25 December 2013
Henry Barthes (Adryen Brody) is a high-school substitute teacher emotionally detached from everyone but his grandfather. When he was a seven year-old boy, he saw his mother committing and he is a traumatized and sad man. Henry is assigned to work for one-month in a decadent public school and along this period, he meets the teenage prostitute Erica (Sami Gayle) on the streets and he brings her to his apartment to take care of her. In his class, he feels affection for the troubled student Meredith (Betty Kaye) and tries to help her. These adolescents change his emotions toward people.

"Detachment" is a depressive view of the sick and dysfunctional modern society though the routine of a substitute teacher that makes the difference in the universe of teenagers, parents and other teachers. There are memorable scenes, like the breakdown of the counselor Dr. Doris Parker (Lucy Liu); or Henry explaining to the students the importance of reading to create their own thoughts and beliefs; or Henry saying that parenthood should require curriculum. On the other side, the reaction of Ms. Sarah Madison when Henry is hugging Meredith is impressive and part of a morally corrupted society that only can see vicious in a sympathetic gesture. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Substituto" ("The Substitute")
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An Outstanding Film!
bgmvp047 March 2012
-By far the most gloomy, sorrowful, lugubrious, inspirational, and powerful film I have ever viewed. There is a deep message within each role portrayed. I feel every single human being should watch this movie at least once in their lifetime, but do so alone...and should be a required film to watch in high schools. If you let it, it will expand your mind and soul 10X. WOW Adrien Brody is BRILLIANT in this film of course as he is in everything he has worked on. The best part of the film I would have to say is the ending. I feel it presented the theme in a way every dramatic film should, to get the audience to reflect on one's self...I say Oscar material!
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An education about many things!
loydchrist17 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I have never been so compelled to write a review of a movie before, because it's my opinion that reviews kill movies. However, the reason for it could only be felt if one watches this movie. It's so heart-stirring and thought provoking that it made my mind cry with no tears. I live ten thousand miles away from America, but the theme of the movie(Love, Children, educational system, parenthood, childhood, adulthood, teachers and above all the struggle of life) is so relevant and transcends boundaries.

Adrien Broody is an amazing actor and with this movie, as become one of my favorite actors. He is one of those very rare actors who can emote so effortlessly. The sadness and melancholy that he expresses is so natural that he should be given a award for the saddest face in Hollywood.

The rest of the cast is equally good. The soundtrack of the movie is so congruous to the movie that at times the background score will move you.

I would suggest this movie to anyone who thinks about their problems a lot, does not matter how old you are.

I salute everyone who was a part of this movie. I wish they make more movies like these.
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The most realistic movie I have seen about a teacher trying to help troubled students. Excellent and a must see. I say A+.
cosmo_tiger26 July 2012
"Some of us believe we can make a difference, then we wake up and realize we failed." Henry Barthes (Brody) is a substitute teacher who is all but dead inside. His grandfather is in a nursing home and close to death. He has no other family and the only job he can get is substitute teaching. After taking a position at a severely under preforming school he does everything he can to make a difference. Finding a way to connect to the kids is not only what they need, but also a way for him to find out who he is. There have been a ton of movies about a teacher who comes in to try and "fix" the students. Even including the true stories "Dangerous Minds" and "Lean On Me" this is easily the most realistic portrayal of a teacher trying to help I have ever seen. Not wanting to give anything away it's not a movie where he comes in and starts to rap and all of a sudden everyone gets A's, nor is it him coming in and being a hard ass until everyone "gets it". This is what most teachers would try and do I think and I didn't think it was possible but this movie give me more respect for what they go through on a day to day basis, most of which is unnoticed or unappreciated. This is a movie that you just need to see, and every high school kid who thinks he is a "thug" needs to see and understand. As well as parents who seem to not care about their kids education. Another movie that deserves to be noticed and seen by a bigger audience then it will get. I highly recommend this movie. I give this an A+.
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Should have been named Attachment!
a-k-topalli6 November 2012
Such a strong storytelling, such real performances. Adrien Brody is brilliant, way better than any words can describe. If he wins an Oscar for The Pianist, what higher prize would you give him for his performance for Detachment? There is no single instant of time during the movie that you feel he is acting. He loses himself entirely in his character. The opening lines are from Albert Camus' The Stranger: "And never have I felt so deeply at one and the same time so detached from myself and so present in the world". I cannot think of any better expression to portray this marvellous movie of Tony Kaye. It is not just about high schools, students and teachers, it is about unbearable vulnerability of being human at any age, facing our problems, not knowing how to handle them, holding our guards high, building walls around us to try to protect ourselves and finally surrendering hopelessly or hopefully. You will see those different choices people are making. This movie perfectly answers the question in Ray LaMontagne's soulful soundtrack song Empty: "Will I always feel this way? So empty, so estranged?" Watch it to get your answer... Life is so chaotic, not always in a bad way. It may bring happiness too, unexpectedly. This movie is one of those good things in life.
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a powerful and moving tale of a substitute teacher and the intersecting lives in a high school
tbmforclasstsar8 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Tony Kaye is not known for having happy-go-lucky tales that leave you feeling better about the status of our world. Even in light and glorious colored shots, Kaye tells stories with deeper inner conflict and demanding commentary about our society. His most famous work, "American History X" (a project that he famously wanted his name taken off of after being upset by edits star Edward Norton made to the film), was a film that showed these dark struggles and issues in a film about a neo- nazi group and their attitude towards the world.

In his new film, "Detachment" (a film he has kept his name on), Kaye and first time writer Carl Lund tell the story of a substitute teacher who travels from school to school trying his best to help the lives of his students, his own life, and the community he is in. The substitute is Henry Barthes, played by Adrien Brody, who is a man that has his own inner struggles and past conflicts that he fights with day-to-day. But Henry must try to put these issues aside when he enters the classroom at this school; a school at which the students don't care, the teachers struggle to educate, and everyone takes a toll from the experiences.

What Lund does so brilliantly in his writing is creating a story that doesn't give one perspective of the situation. He tells the story through the eyes of Henry, the students, the parents, and even a young prostitute Henry befriends. In fact, even as Henry is the main character of this story, we still get perspective from many of the other teachers (played by James Caan, Tim Blake Nelson, Christina Hendricks, Blythe Danner, Lucy Liu, and Marcia Gay Harden). The student stories range from a young girl who struggles with weight problems, parents pressuring her, and bullying to students who act tough and thug and threaten harm to the teachers. What results from this is a multi-faceted story that gives many perspectives and tales. Like "The Wire" inside a high school.

As the tale moves along, we get to know each of these characters deeply and care for them a great deal. From the relationship that forms between Henry and the young prostitute named Erica to the conversations between teachers discussing how they could be better, the film places us within this harsh world of a school and asks us what can be done about bettering our youth, bettering our communities, and bettering ourselves.

The film also touches briefly and comments on the outside factors that affect day-to-day school life. From advertisements and social norms telling us how we should act and who we should be to apathetic parenting that leads to a Parent Night with almost no attendees, Kaye and Lund construct a film that demands us to want more, shows us some of the factors that lead to these problems, and confesses there are no easy answers. As Henry begs his students to think for themselves and care for something more than just them, Kaye and Lund bring in the outer conflicts that impact these kids and cause the inability for them to think this way. This is no easy road with a simple answer. It is complex with many different intersecting avenues.

Outside of the strong construction of the story by Lund and the beautiful cinematography and strong directing from Kaye, this film also benefits deeply from the acting performances, specifically from Adrien Brody. While Caan, Nelson, Hendricks, Danner, Liu, Harden, and newcomers Sami Gayle (Erica) and Tony's daughter Betty Kaye (the bullied Meredith) are all brilliant, Brody is absolutely enthralling. While Brody's career has not blown up since his Best Actor Oscar for "The Pianist" (a few Wes Anderson films, "The Brothers Bloom," "King Kong," "The Village," "Hollywoodland," and "Splice" on the short and not extremely noteworthy list), he is so powerful and strong in "Detachment." With the ability to say so much with so little and controlling every scene he is in, Brody reminds us why he is an Academy Award winner while making us laugh and cry with him throughout this film.

"Detachment" is an extremely effective and emotional tale that will both warm and break your heart. The story lines of the film intersect and converge like a graceful car crash. The pain of one interaction morphs into the joy of a different one. Haunting memories of the past bring up pain in the present. With careful construction of the world of this school, along with Kaye's masterful direction and photography and some brilliant thespianism by Brody and the rest of the cast, "Detachment" is a film that can impact a person in so many ways. Just as Henry tries to have an influence on all the lives he meets in the short period he substitutes, so does Kaye educate and ask questions to his audience and demand that we think a little more about ourselves, those around us, and the community we are all a part of. That we must not stay detached, but become an important and productive member for ourselves and everyone around us.

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Incredible. Love this movie.
scofenn549 December 2012
I can't believe that this movie is not up for academy awards. It is brilliant. Four of us watched this together and our eyes were riveted to the screen. Adrien Brody is a genius. The acting is superb and the message is clear. A universal cry for love and acceptance seems to be the theme. The inside look at schools and teachers is dark but realistic. No kids left behind but what about the teachers? It is hard to believe that the movie never grossed millions of dollars. What is wrong with America? Whatever it is, it is reflected in our schools. Having teachers that care about their students may be the the only caring that some of these children receive.
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Beautiful Inspirational Movie
kaidrozd9 December 2012
This movie is unbelievable. It gives me inspiration to be a better person. A must watch. This movie hit me on a personal level. It focuses on people struggling through their lives and living with pain and recognizes that everyone lives with pain, and that is something we all share. the moments in this movie which show compassion are truly amazing and heartwarming. I have read what the director wanted from the movie and Tony Kaye did a wonderful job. He picked a wonderful cast and I don't disagree with his decision to cast his own daughter because she played the role beautifully and convincingly and I also believe it would be hard on any parent to cast their own child into a role like that, but she absolutely completed the movie alongside everyone else. I love that hope is recognized in movies like this because it gives meaning to what it feels like to be alive. I cried near the ending because this movie itself seems to me like beautiful literature.
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Detachment is a very interesting drama
Argemaluco7 July 2012
One of the most rancid cinematographic formulas is that one in which an unusual teacher achieves raising the conscience from his/her apathetic students, inspiring them to overcome themselves and fight against any external or internal obstacle which interposes on their road to education. The truth is that that subject feels a bit spent, specially when it lacks of conviction and is only employed as a forced ingredient to produce emotion and tears. Before watching Detachment, I thought it was going to be one of those films; fortunately, the reality ended up being very different, because even though I didn't find it always sincere, it undoubtedly represents an audacious and innovative interpretation of the "miraculous teacher" subject which deserves to be seen not only because of its valid message, but also because of its excellent performances and solid direction. We needed something like this after the atrocious Bad Teacher...

In other circumstances, I would be frustrated by a movie with such many characters, such many sub-plots and such little time to fully develop them as Detachment. However, screenwriter Carl Lund handled the story with pretty much eloquence, painting the events and relationships with broad strokes, in order to later fill in the holes with economic but potent details of a big emotional force. As a consequence, when we reach the ending, the story feels simultaneously satisfactory, logical and inspiring, without submitting itself to the classic "happy ending" from Hollywood. The actors make a perfect work, starting by Adrien Brody, who transmits the melancholy which has eroded his character's soul through the years without the need of words. The supporting cast is also worthy of applause, highlighting James Caan, Lucy Liu and Marcia Gay Harden.

I would also like to mention the excellent score from the Newton Brothers and Barry Alexander Brown's precise edition, which complement the directing style from Tony Kaye (who had left me amazed in the late-90s with the extraordinary American History X), which is simultaneously simple and meticulous. On the negative side from Detachment, a few scenes and situations feel excessively convenient and simplified; particularly, there's near the ending a tragedy I found totally gratuitous, predictable and unnecessary. I also found some monologues a bit pretentious and forced. Nevertheless, I liked Detachment pretty much, and I definitely consider it worthy of a recommendation.
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