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In Director Tony Kaye's Detachment, Adrien Brody stars as Henry Barthes, an educator with a true talent to connect with his students. Yet Henry has chosen to bury his gift. By spending his days as a substitute teacher, he conveniently avoids any emotional connections by never staying anywhere long enough to form an attachment to either students or colleagues. When a new assignment places him at a public school where a frustrated, burned-out administration has created an apathetic student body, Henry soon becomes a role model to the disaffected youth. In finding an unlikely emotional connection to the students, teachers, and a runaway teen he takes in from the streets, Henry realizes that he's not alone in his life and death struggle to find beauty in a seemingly vicious and loveless world
Still best known for American History X, a film he tried to have his name removed from, director Tony Kaye's work has remained consistent and interesting ever since. It's been a lot lower profile too. Detachment is a case in point. Whereas American films about teachers taking on an unruly class in a trouble school generally end with either Oscar nominations or a hit single, Detachment is a lot more serious, and consequently more interesting, about its work.
It follows a brilliant teacher, played by Adrien Brody, who goes from school to school as a substitute, rather than committing and getting attached to the one place. That inevitably changes, but the film's viewpoint on life doesn't. There's no gloss here, rather a superbly acted, down to earth drama, that has as much to say about the school system it's portraying as it does its individual characters.
It's a shame that Detachment got such a low-key cinema release, something reflected in the straightforward disc debut too. There are a few extras here, but nothing that adds a great deal to the package. That's a pity too, as the film is superb, courageous, and quite brilliantly acted. Brody is as good here as he was in his Oscar-winning turn in The Pianist, and Detachment deserves all the exposure it can get. --Jon Foster
- Actors: Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks, Marcia Gay Harden, Lucy Liu, Bryan Cranston
- Directors: Tony Kaye
- Format: Dolby, PAL, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Region: Region B/2 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: 15
- Studio: Koch Media
- DVD Release Date: 4 Feb. 2013
- Run Time: 100 minutes
Tony Kaye's drama is a powerful story about a man who decided to detach himself from society. Henry Barthes (sensitively acted by Adrien Brody) did not have a great start in life. His father left when he was very young. He does not remember him. His mother committed suicide when he was 7. Henry found her naked and dead on the bathroom floor when he returned from school. He lived with his grandfather who agonized himself over the death of his daughter, blaming himself thinking it was he who drove her to commit suicide. Henry, who describes himself as “empty”, moves around between schools as a substitute teacher with an empty bag, returns every night to his empty flat, has no friends; his only commitment is to his grandfather who suffers from dementia and is institutionalized in one of those not-so-great exit places, where residents have a one-way ticket from the world and those who are supposed to make their exist as comfortable as possible are not truly caring.
Detachment chronicles three weeks in Henry’s life. Henry is a sensitive man who is aware of his sensitivity. As life did not treat him well, he decided to disconnect, not to be hurt by others. Although Henry has a true talent to connect with his students, he has chosen to bury his gift. Henry roams from school to school, imparting modes of knowledge, but never staying to form any semblance of sentient attachment. A perfect profession for one seeking to hide from life. One day Henry arrives at a rough school where no one cares about education. The students and their parents have other issues, and the administrators and teachers understand that taking care of their own sanity and providing students with some guidance are more important than providing them with education. Upon his entry into this troubled school, a secret world of emotion is awakened within him by two girls and one woman. A talented and lonely girl named Meredith asks for his attention. No one in the entire world cares for her, appreciates her or listens to her. A fellow lonely and hurt teacher, Ms. Madison (the stunning Christina Rene Hendricks), is drawn to him, and a very young street hooker named Erica, who was surprised to see Henry shedding tears when she serviced a blowjob to an ungrateful customer on a bus. Kind Henry decides to grant her brief shelter at his modest home away from the violent streets. Each one of these women, like Henry, are in a life and death struggle to find some meaning in a seemingly vicious and loveless world. Each of them is drawn to Henry’s sensitivity and seeks to find solace with him. But it is not easy for him or for them.
Detachment is a sensitive drama that will touch your heart. The script is intelligent, Adrien Brody is a great actor who holds the film together, the supporting cast is effective, and Tony Kaye directed the film with talent and care.
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