Detachment is nowhere near the feel-good movie of the week. In fact, it doesn't even come close to being the feel-good movie of the month. It's as bleak and as dark as they come, but Detachment is easily one of the best films that you'll see this year.
It's a film about a teacher, but don't expect the likes of To Sir With Love or Please Sir – although it does have a touch of Dangerous Minds about it. Brody is Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher at a new York high school. His latest assignment sees him trying to teach English to a bunch of disaffected inner-city kids. Kids who think nothing of throwing abuse or even chairs at their teachers. The faculty themselves are burned out, pissed off, and daily face the reality that what they do seems to mean nothing to anyone.
Barthes is a man with anger management issues, detached from and disillusioned with the world around him, but desperately seeking connections. He takes in a teenage prostitute he meets on the street (Gayle), offering her shelter as well as some much-needed human kindness. He also has to deal with the poor treatment of his dying grandfather in a nursing home. Slowly, Henry comes to realise that he can make a difference and have a positive effect on the lives of others.
Detachment is a hard film to recommend. It's not a "fun" watch by any means, and somewhat dark and cynical, but it's a deeply affecting film and one that should be seen. Brody gives perhaps his best performance ever. His world-weary yet passionate teacher holds the film together as a strong central core, and it's genuinely uplifting to see him finally get through to his students. Brody's ably supported by a brilliant cast, all doing tremendous work – particularly Caan as a wisecracking, smart-mouthed veteran who's pretty much the only teacher there who will take no shit from the students. And a genuine surpise is Gayle, a familiar face form the TV drama Blue Bloods making a terrific big-screen debut as the troubled teen, Erica.
Director Kaye, best known for American History X, has crafted an absorbing drama that is worthy of box-office attention.