Adrien Brody is a teacher on the edge – like everyone else


Director: Tony Kaye
Starring: Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu

It seems like everybody is on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Detachment, which takes its name from an Albert Camus quote but plays more like an epic existential saga in PowerPoint format. This is apparently the first film that director Tony Kaye (American History X) made without studio interference – think of it as his own Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. That isn't an entirely glib comparison, either: Detachment is propelled by a similarly manic fervor as Peckinpah's darkest work, even if its intentions are rather different.

Adrien Brody is the substitute teacher filling in at a troubled school, where the faculty are cheerfully informed at one point that their students’ low test scores are hurting the value of local real estate. These same teachers are on constant edge: only James Caan's charismatic Mr Seaboldt manages to see the funny side of things, and that's because he's popping anti-depressives all day long. Brody, by comparison, has weathered life's blows by making himself a blank, though this doesn't prevent him from dispensing wise advice to his charges, or letting a young prostitute live at his apartment.

That's just one of the narrative threads, though: there's also the abusive grandfather losing his mind in a care home, the obese student nurturing a crush on her teacher, Brody's brief romance with a colleague, Lucy Liu's increasingly unstable school counselor, and Marcia Gay Harden's soon-to-be-sacked principal. It's a mini-series' worth of material, and Kaye stitches it together in an attention-deficit style that would do Tony Scott proud, complete with cameras that are constantly slipping in and out of focus, and interspersed with a running interview with Brody’s character, Super-8 flashbacks to his childhood, and blackboard animations depicting the teachers' inner turmoil.

It’s exhausting and never remotely subtle, but it’s also a genuinely gripping watch, helped by a cast who give it their all throughout.

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By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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