Half Nelson, an American Cult movie of 2006 is truly special. It tells the story of an idealistic teacher, struggling in the American school system, with a secret; a drug habit that isolates him and pushes him back into the dark. So coping with the supposed purity and moral lessons he is supposed to show or impart in schools, does show in all his energy and imagination, as his mind and hope begins to crack. His real hope and in the end his redemption is his friendship with a young girl, who has no real parenting and whose brother is in prison for selling drugs, threatening to draw her into that world too. The moment she discovers her teacher’s real moral decline is brilliantly handled and the acting is great. It is the moment negative judgment does not step in, the moment there is no shock or outrage, just sadness and a quiet question. So the Songs of Innocence talk to the Songs of Experience, although a premise is that ‘children’ can be far tougher than you think, and his responsibility returns. It is just left with their friendship and an implicit pact to protect each other. If the hypocracy you sometimes find in America, well, anywhere, had won, then supposedly they would have called it Full Nelson, the grip you can’t escape!
As for going too overboard on the ‘great’ BBC dramas, the BBC’s The Night Watch, based on the novel by Sarah Waters, and about an interweave of primarily gay and lesbian relationships, around a writer and blitz ambulance crew, so using the theme of war and survival to explore various forms of fear, courage and betrayal, is real and well acted. It plays that time trick of trying to find out those moments where everything goes wrong, though a suicide pact is especially unconvincing, to explain in a snapshot why a young gay man is in Prison. It feels at times a bit too cosy about how tolerant England then really was too. The revelations in a novel like Eye in The Door, from The Regeneration Trilogy are far more challenging. It’s lines become a bit heavy too, echoing Churchill on where your life story starts or stops, with ‘you are only at the end of the beginning,’ or ‘why is it we can never love the people we ought?’, but on the other hand… ‘Why is it?’ Give us people though, people and more people, and defend the human.