Now, I love a good blockbuster as much as anyone else and there’s no holding me back whenever a DC or Marvel superhero movie is released, but there’s only so much popcorn-and-fizzy-drink films I can manage before needing something with a bit of substance, a little more steeped in reality.
Detachment delivered, and then some.
Directed by Tony Kaye, the man responsible for the compelling American History X (which he later disowned), and the as-yet unreleased Black Water Transit (filmed in 2009), it stars Adrien Brody in stunning form as Henry Barthes, a schoolteacher whose life gets rather complicated over the course of three pivotal weeks.
Barthes is a natural communicator who connects with his students. But as a substitute teacher, he studiously avoids any emotional attachments by virtue of his transitory job of choice. Then he arrives at a public school where a frustrated, burned-out administration has created apathetic students, and suddenly becomes a role model.
Making emotional connections with students, teachers, and a runaway teen he takes in from the streets (Sami Gayle, who you might recognise as Nicky Reagan-Boyle in Blue Bloods), Barthes breaks his chain of disengagement - with mixed results.
Another thing: the supporting cast is outstanding. James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, Bryan Cranston and William Petersen all lend a lot of impressive acting muscle to this movie.
Without giving too much away, Detachment is a damning indictment of the moribund American public school system, as well as reflecting on the fear of empathy and the joyless individualism that are cornerstones of consumerism. It paints a pretty bleak picture, but that’s just the way it is out there.
Detachment is far from perfect - for example, some of the story is groaningly predictable, corny even, and the ending leaves a lot to be desired – but it still packs a mean punch. And Brody is just mesmerising as the anti-Mr Chips who can’t help but care.