Almost forgot to post this. Look out for my Hunger Games review coming very soon.
This review is also up at Channel 24
A career substitute teacher finds his
general detachment from his assignments challenged as he is engaged
by the students of his latest class, while his personal life also
takes a turn as he meets and befriends a homeless teenage prostitute.
What we thought
If ever there was a film that is
perfectly encapsulated by its title, it's this one. Detachment both
perfectly describes the main theme of the film as we meet a group of
characters who are detached from their own lives and, unfortunately,
its primary flaw: the sense of detachment that the audience feels
from what is going on in the film itself.
Here we have yet another in a long
line of films where a disengaged teacher enriches the lives of a
group of misfit students who in turn enriches his or her own life. It
doesn't matter whether we're talking School of Rock, Dangerous Minds
or Dead Poets Society, we have seen this story before and we have
seen it often. I am willing to bet, however, that we haven't quite
seen it done like this before.
At the heart of most of these films is
a real sense of inspiration and upliftment as teacher and students
affect each others lives for the better, but Detachment thoroughly
and relentlessly refuses to follow this model. Forget having your
heartstrings tugged or your tear ducts jerked because Detachment is
easily one of the bleakest, most oppressively harsh films to come out
this year. Or, at least, in 2011.
It is worth mentioning at this point
that Detachment took its sweet, sweet time getting to these shores.
Originally shown at festivals in 2011 and released in the US on
video-on-demand in early 2012, you can probably import this film on
budget DVD by this point. The release schedule of films in South
Africa continues to be utterly bewildering as we get this movie two
years late, while many really worthy indie films don't make it here
at all – even some not so indie films.
Anyway, back to the film at hand,
regardless of how late it is, I can't see it making much of a splash
at local cinemas. Partly, this would be a great pity as it features
some exceptional performances, really admirable intentions and plenty
of excellent moments, but the sheer, unremitting bleakness of the
film means that it will struggle to find an audience and will
struggle even harder to win over those who do dare to see it.
This is precisely the sort of film
that should thrive on the emotional attachment of its audience but
unfortunately, between its seriously distracting stylistic ticks –
and there are a lot of them – and it's complete lack of lightness
among the darkness forces the viewer to pull away from what's going
on on-screen. In no time at all, what should be a truly moving story
instead feels melodramatic and manipulative, even as it hits on real
universal truths. It also certainly doesn't help that the characters
are nowhere near developed enough to be this unlikable and this
Also, please tell me that teenagers in
the real world aren't this horrible. Not to sound like an old man
telling those damn kids to get off my lawn (hey, I'm only in my early
30s!) but if these malignant maggots depicted in the film are truly
the future of the human race then the apocalypse really couldn't come
soon enough. People have always told me that I was born in the wrong
era but, aside for leaving me feeling utterly cold, Detachment has
made me feel older and more out of touch with kids today than I ever
would have thought possible at this stage in my life. But then, maybe
that's the point.
Sorry to be so flippant about this,
but joking (or am I?) about this film is the only way I can properly
process it - it makes director Tony Kaye's breakthrough, American
History X, look like Airplane II in comparison. Even if its heavy
handedness, gimmicky “artsiness” and occasionally plodding and
pretentious dialogue constantly threatens to derail it, there is
certainly a lot to clinically admire about Detachment, not least of
which is Adrian Brody's seriously superb central performance. There's
just really very, very little to enjoy.