Semi detachment

Barthes appreciates the work of pupil Meredith.
Barthes appreciates the work of pupil Meredith.

Detachment (15)

Director: Tony Kaye.

Starring: Adrian Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, William Petersen, Sami Gayle and Betty Kaye.

Running time: 1hr 38mins.

ADRIAN Brody has had a mixed career so far, but a not unsatisfying one.

Starring as the Anglophile punk in Summer of Sam 13 years ago, Brody’s name is often linked with serious, low-budget movies.

That was until he was spectacularly miscast as the adrenalin-pumped hero in Predators.

For the slight-framed actor to be stepping into the combat boots of the likes of Arnie Shwarzenegger was frankly ludicrous.

In Detachment, he again sees a return to form as a supply school teacher at an underperforming, inner-city school.

But if you fear this is anything like Antonio Banderas’s way of tackling teen violence with nifty dance steps, you can relax.

Brody’s character, Henry Barthes, doesn’t have a waltz up his sleeve.

Nor is he some unrealisable inspiration in the Hilary Swank/Freedom Writers mould.

Henry is just a man doing the best with what he’s got.

When he’s not working he visits his ailing grandfather in hospital, strikes up a bizarre relationship with a young prostitute (Sami Gayle) — who he brings home to stay — and has a brief flirtation with a colleague (Christina Hendricks).

The problem is that it all sounds a tad clichéd — even down to its inevitable, tragic conclusion.

But what saves this from sliding into another Blackboard Jungle for the 21st century is the acting talent on display and the dedication that they bring to the table.

Harden is the head of the school who is being made a sacrificial lamb by the education board.

James Cann is the world-weary educator who pops pills to get him through the day.

Lucy Liu may have a doctorate, but her nerves are shredded.

All of these pros do what they do so well that you would expect nothing less.

The real revelation is Sami Gayle as prostitute Erica.

Looking like a young Angelina Jolie, Gaye provides a complex performance as the working girl who finds herself overwhelmed by Barthes act of kindness, but is unprepared for what comes later.

The film title describes Barthes approach to supply teaching — do the job, and walk away.

But sometimes you can’t walk away.

Rating: 4/5