Title: Detachment

Director: Tony Kaye (‘American History X’)

Starring: Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, Sami Gayle (TV’s ‘Blue Bloods’) and Meredith Kaye

Chronicling the important social issues of the day and pushing popcorn entertainment to the background has always been a goal of acclaimed filmmaker Tony Kaye. The director once again lives up to his high moral standards in his new drama ‘Detachment.’ Capturing the emotions and moral qualities that fail to motivate students and administrators alike, the perils of the current American education system were realistically brought to the attention of everyone questioning why the system has fallen behind. The film showcases that even one person determined to help those around him can positively change the way students and teachers look at school and learning.

‘Detachment’ follows New York City substitute teacher Henry Barthes (played by Adrien Brody), who conveniently avoids any emotional connections with his colleagues and students. He never stays at any school long enough to form meaningful bonds, as he’s still coping with a troubled childhood, during which his father left his mother and him. After receiving a month-long assignment at a struggling public school, where the student body is apathetic and the administration is frustrated, Henry finally makes meaningful, emotional connections.

Henry starts to make a difference in the lives of his fellow teachers, including Ms. Sarah Madison (portrayed by Christina Hendricks) and Dr. Doris Parker (played by Lucy Liu), as well as the student body, most importantly Meredith (portrayed by Betty Kaye), who is riddled with low self esteem. He also learns how to care for others after meeting teenage prostitute Erica (played by Sami Gayle). While Henry is initially hesitant to even talk to Erica when he first meets her, he comes to care for her after taking her off the streets.

Kaye created another perfectly socially aware drama, in the league of his Academy Award-nominated debut, ‘American History X.’ Whereas ‘American History X’ explored the issue of racism, ‘Detachment’ skillfully showcases Henry’s struggle to hide from his pain and the problems plaguing his everyday life. He refuses to open up to anyone, as he fears that they’ll abandon him, much like his parents. He’s content with the lack of commitment in his life, until he comes face-to-face with Erica and the students in his new school, who are also dealing with low levels of self worth, and aren’t supported by their parents.

Henry comes to realize that children who are neglected and don’t have the support of their parents won’t succeed in school or in life after graduation. While he doesn’t have any permanent ties to the school, he becomes determined to change the mindset of both the students and the administration, and encourage them to create a more beneficial learning environment. ‘Detachment’ is a realistic reflection of how public schools in poorer neighborhoods that don’t have the necessary budget to get the most up-to-date supplies often fall behind private institutions. The financial cuts and political agendas which plague many schools often forget the true purpose of the education system.

Since ‘Detachment’ is an independent film, Kaye didn’t concern himself with creating the most elaborate sets for the drama. He used the limited budget to his advantage to showcase the harsh realities the students and teachers face in such oppressed schools. The director rightfully focused on the mental and moral capabilities and motivations of the students struggling to obtain guidance and acceptance, and the teachers who want to make a difference in their lives.

Brody was perfectly cast as Henry in ‘Detachment,’ because like Kaye, he’s more concerned with telling his character’s real-life story than entertaining audiences with a big-budget film. The Oscar winner understood Henry’s hesitance to embark on meaningful relationships with anyone his own age or the students he’s supposed to be helping, as he still vividly remembers the pain he went through after losing his parents. But he gradually changed his outlook on truly helping others, as he began caring for Erica. He realizes that if he can nurture the younger generation in the way he never was, they may have a genuine chance at improving their lives.

‘Detachment’ realistically showcases the pain and suffering anyone feels after being abandoned by their parents. Henry feels no shame in hiding from the problems plaguing his simple life, and is happy to run from any signs of commitment, in order to avoid any further pain. But upon truly looking into the important issue of needing family and the support of the community to improve the education system, Henry realistically changes his outlook on life, and embraces the need to help those around him.

Technical: B+

Acting: A-

Story: B+

Overall: B+

Written by: Karen Benardello

Detachment Movie Still 1

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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