I know I wrote a little about Half Nelson before. But lets check out one of my all-time favorite sequences from the film.
Ryan Gosling plays Dan Dunne, a middle school teacher who is also a drug addict. The scene above teaches us everything we need to know about his character. The exceptional acting from Gosling and the framing of each scene in the sequence create a beautiful backstory for a character.
The first thing the we can notice is the way the camera changes position throughout the sequence. At first we can see all of Dunne with his legs on the bed, he's talking non-stop about politics but his last line before the scene changes is what is important.
"I'm one man what do I do, you know?"
It immediately cuts to Dunne snorting lines of cocaine while trying to explain that he's doing better -- which is an obvious lie -- and starts telling the silent person in the room about his life. This scene of Dunne talking is great on two levels. The first thing is Gosling's acting and the second is the close-up of his monologue. We can watch him go from false-confidence to infinite-sadness in less than a minute.
The slow-dancing at the end of the scene reveals to us what Dunne was looking for the whole time
Dunne is someone who fails to connect with anyone throughout the film. Even when alone with someone, he controls the space by talking non-stop. His continuous dialogue throughout the sequence shows us that he actually has no control at all.
It also shows us that he has a hard time letting other people in. By controlling the space with his voice, he doesn't let the other person in the room with him get any words in. This tells us that he's not interested or he's afraid of what other people might say. Much like the line at the end of the first scene in the sequence, he's one man that doesn't know what to do.
Throughout the scene and the film he's constantly looking to make a connection with someone other than himself and in less than 3 minutes, the above sequence shows us that.