Displaying a fierce passion for the plight of teachers on the front lines of a battle already lost to political ineptitude, director Tony Kaye launches a full-press cinematic attack upon America’s troubled public school system. Even though Carl Lund’s problematic screenplay hits a few recurring subplot potholes, the reliable and committed Adrien Brody carries the film’s momentum as well-liked high school substitute teacher Henry Barthes. Henry is a seen-it-all veteran of an education system that is crumbling around him. He’s a charmer. Henry does a four-week stint at a high school whose devoted staff is getting thrown under the bus by public officials more concerned with property values than education. Henry spends off hours visiting his dying grandfather (Louis Zorich) in a nursing home where patient neglect runs rampant. A wayward teen prostitute (Sami Gayle) stumbles into Henry’s path to enable a well-worn cliché device to distract from the bigger story at hand.
“Detachment” is a socially conscious drama that wears its heart too much on its heavy-handed sleeve. Still, strong ensemble performances from the likes of Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Blythe Danner, and Tim Blake Nelson help buoy this call-to-arms drama.
Not Rated. 100 mins. (B-) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)