Detachment may be his best work to date. (I am told that the ending of American History X was taken away from him and changed prior to its release, which may account for my somewhat negative feelings about that film), so I hope that he indeed had the final cut on Detachment because it appears to me to be in its entirety a genuinely thoughtful, painful and moving piece of work.
Carl Lund, and he certainly understands this venue. It should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to public education here in the U.S. that we're in big trouble. Blame often is tossed first at our teachers (they are somehow lazy and/or incompetent) then at students (lazy, incompe-tent, angry and frightening). Kaye lets us see some of this, all right, but he digs deeper than these typical, surface reactions. A lot deeper.
Adrien Brody, above, in one of his finest roles (which is saying something) plays Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher in a school into which have recently been thrust a bunch of so-called loser students. The principal (Marcia Gay Hardin) and her crew have not been able to "raise" the test scores of these kids and so she now is about to lose her job. Other teachers cope as best they can, and their coping methods are as diverse as the teachers themselves.
Blythe Danner, Christina Hendricks (above), Tim Blake Nelson, (below), James Caan (in the penultimate photo) and Lucy Liu -- but oddly enough has given them not so much to do. His movie probably could have been twice its length, but the filmmaker opts for economy over filler, and the result is lean and riveting. Each small scene with every actor resonates.
Sami Gayle, below), whom he tries to help. We also see what's left of his fami-ly: a dying grandfather -- Louis Zorich -- with his own demented agenda.
Betty Kaye, above) in which the girl desperately needs a hug. Henry wants to do this but he (and we) understand that this is a definite no-no in today's insistently politically-correct climate. And yet we feel to our bones that this is the only action that ought to be taken. The scene is brilliant and compelling, capturing as well as any what the filmmakers have achieved. Without uttering a single unnecessary word, Kaye and Lund let us know who is to blame here. It is somehow us and what we have allowed ourselves and our country to become.
Netflix streaming, as well as via other venues and on DVD. It is actually one of those rare films that audiences understood and appreciated better than most of our so-called critics, who still seem to need easy answers that point the finger of responsibility, of course, at someone else. Miss it and you will have missed a one-of-a-kind movie.
Edgar Allan Poe at the movie's conclusion, by the way, is so much better and so much more appropriate than anything that was used in The Following. If one is going to show the work of this master writer as an object lesson, here, friends, is exactly how to do it.