Directed & Cinematography By: Tony Kaye
Written By: Carl Lund
Editor: Michelle Botticelli, Barry Alexander Brown & Geoffrey Richman
Cast: Adrien Brody, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Sammi Gayle, Tim Blake Nelson, Bryan Cranston, William Peterson, Betty Kaye, Lucy Liu, Marcia Gay Harden, Blythe Danner, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Josh Pais, Doug E. Doug,
Detachment is a chronicle of three weeks in the lives of several high school teachers, administrators, and students through the eyes of a substitute teacher named Henry Barthes. Henry roams from school to school, imparting modes of knowledge, but never staying long enough to form any semblance of sentient attachment. A perfect profession for one seeking to hide out in the open. One day Henry arrives at his next assignment. Upon his entry into this particular school, a secret world of emotion is awakened within him by three women. A girl named Meredith is in his first period. A fellow teacher Ms. Madison, and a street hooker named Erica, whom Henry has personally granted brief shelter from the streets. Each one of these women, like Henry, is in a life and death struggle to find beauty in a seemingly vicious and loveless world.
The film-like its main character shows us the problems. Makes us aware of the problems, but also offers no answers. So not only is it bleak but also nihilistic. While it is heavily philosophical at times and becomes cerebral. It also at times becomes a bit too much.
The storyline of him taking in a girl off the street is understandable as he seems to try to prove to himself he is a good person and help someone he sees as innocent while one of his students sends out warning signs of trouble yet he is blind to it. It also shows a way to make up for things in his past. I also believe it is a way for him to communicate with someone as lonely as he is. In one scene he even witnesses a teacher clearly with mental problems, yet does nothing about it.
The film shows the hardships not only he but most teachers and administrators have to go through not only from students but also parents and the state. They seem to be battling in a losing war that they are not supplied to handle. Where the only hope is that you can grab one kid, one mind, and teach them something then you have succeeded. You have kids who don’t care. Parents who look to you to babysit and raise their children have no funds for anything.
Tony Kaye Makes another powerful hard-hitting film that while a little too indulgent at times makes you think and delivers a message. Despite his past troubles, his talent as a director is undeniable. He gets solid performances from the supporting cast who don’t have much to work with as far as characters but you feel the world-weariness.
James Caan’s character is full of spirit and funny yet has the feeling of hitting a brick wall way too many times. Kaye even casts his daughter in a key role and she is effective as is Sammi Gayle as a teen prostitute staying with Brody’s character. Tony Kaye also gets a boost from getting a natural and powerful performance from his lead Adrien Brody who hasn’t been this good in years, His performance is full and realized. He is soulful and complicated but comes through as solid. IT’s also his first leading role in quite some time.
The storyline of taking the girl off the street is far-fetched. In a real-life way, but works for the film. Marcia Gay Harden’s breakdown feels a bit over the top and far-reaching. The film feels important if only hopefully as a time capsule. More to look back upon as how bad a problem the school system was. More of a social problem film, than a dramatic one. As at times, we get to know the teacher’s home life some of whose is just as bad as the school system is but they are quickly jettisoned and forgotten for the rest of the film. ‘
The film provides dramatic characters and situations but is more concerned with the dilemma of these characters. Though it also is more focused on Adrien Brody’s character and problems.
I warn you this is not a happy film. It is very sad and depressing. It is worth watching for filmmaking and the performances. The film is definitely Worth Watching. An Addition to the film library you can come back and look from time to time.