Directed by Tony Kaye
From Tony Kaye, director of American History X, comes another gritty human drama, this time featuring Adrien Brody in one of the strongest performances of his career.
One of those rare movies that successfully balances being extremely difficult to watch, yet completely mesmerizing. Detachment explores the lives of the emotionally damaged teachers, students, and advisors of an urban high school. Brutal in its portrayal of the low-class inhabitants of this poverty-stricken school and those affected by it, this film is a brilliant social commentary on the inadequacies of the educational system in urban America, posing questions with difficult and often impossible solutions.
There are many side characters and backstories that are never fully explored in this film, which mostly serve as one-dimensional devices for big picture issues and are otherwise used to explore loneliness, depression, angst, and the sympathetic nature of humanity. These supporting characters, though undeveloped and incomplete as fully-fleshed human beings, are still intriguing, and the cast handle these roles well -- particularly Harden, Caan, and Gayle. Brody, however, stands out the most as one of the few characters we see on-screen for an extended period of time. He also receives his own personal screen time during brief documentary-like interview segments which provide him an outlet for his inner turmoil.
Though the direction may linger on its social subject matter too much at times, I found Kaye's balance of human and social issues quite effective. Several of the film's characters, as brief as their appearances may be, have the ability to leave a lasting impression. The revealing way in which they are presented leaves them completely exposed and vulnerable, allowing us to see deeper into the nature of their pain than we would ever care to see. I was very struck by the raw emotional residue this film left behind, and even over a month after having watched it, I still find myself incapable of finding the words to properly express my feelings towards it.
To put it simply, this is a depressing movie, through and through. Despite brief moments of hope and joy, Detachment often lingers in the realm of destitution and isolation. As powerful and hard-hitting as it is, I would find it hard to recommend to many people, as most would find its generally pessimistic outlook distressing to the point of being nearly unwatchable. Nonetheless, this is one of the most effective movies I've seen so far this year, and definitely worth watching if in the proper mood.