From director Tony Kaye who was responsible for one of my favorite films American History X comes Detachment. Detachment is a character study of a substitute teacher named Henry Barthes played by Adrien Brody. The film is shot over a period of three weeks and focuses on Henry who seems to roam school to school, who drops knowledge here and there but never really sticking around long enough to form any sense of attachment or bond. Well, this lifestyle seems to come to a halt when he arrives at his next school and he is awakened to a world of emotion that hit him by three women. A girl in his first period named Meredith who is played by Betty Kaye, a teacher named Ms. Madison who is played by Christina Hendricks, and a street hooker named Erica played by Sami Gayle. Like Henry the three women are struggling to find meaning in this insane world.
One thing can be said about Kaye and his films; the man can tell a story and get you emotionally invested and lost in this ugly world that seems so cruel and harsh at times. Adrien Brody who really gives us more of the same that we become used to with his portrayals really shines as a teacher who tries to avoid emotional connections and belonging and seems really happy to not have formed any bonds with kids, or anyone. He is played as a lost soul that seems tortured and he is gripping a troubled past. But, when he finds himself at a public school that the student body seems frustrated and burnt out, he becomes a role model and steps up. When he meets the hooker and takes her in, you feel he is just a lost soul looking to really just find someone who he can bond with and ease his pain in helping them out.
Tony Kaye is never a director known for making safe films, and this is no different. This film is very open, honest and almost like a reality slap in the face to the education system. Whereas American History X gave us a face of pure hatred that wants to change, this film shows us a system that needs to change, and that is education. This film is dark, depressing and very bleak. When Brody goes to the school for his one month assignment you look at the kids and they are confrontational, disconnected and lost. Where education at one time was so important and something everyone put such an emphasis on, today it is lost in a dying economy and the MTV world of anyone can be a star, that kids do not see a future in education.
This film is not perfect, but it was very good to witness and I was really into the story for the most part. I thought at times this film did feel a little watered down like it was trying not to go too far into controversy, which I think this film should have embraced but given Kayeâ€™s history with censors, he may not have want to deal with what American History X had to go thru with a studio stepping in and cutting a film itself to appease a rating board. If you have kids in school, this would be worth a watch to give you a grasp of todayâ€™s school system as opposed to our school system of yesteryear.
7.5 out of 10