𝑾𝒆 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒔𝒖𝒄𝒉 𝒂 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒃𝒊𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒚 𝒕𝒐 𝒈𝒖𝒊𝒅𝒆 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒅𝒐𝒏'𝒕 𝒆𝒏𝒅 𝒖𝒑 𝒇𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒕, 𝒇𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒃𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒚𝒔𝒊𝒅𝒆, 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒊𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒈𝒏𝒊𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏𝒕
Detachment is a 2011 American drama film directed by Tony Kaye and written by Carl Lund. Its story follows Henry Barthes, a high-school substitute teacher who becomes a role model to his students and others. It stars Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, William Petersen, Bryan Cranston, Tim Blake Nelson, Betty Kaye, Sami Gayle, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, and James Caan.
A fan of 𝑨𝒎𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝑯𝒊𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝑿, my admiration for Tony Kaye’s gumption for hard hitters is not present without criticism. Perhaps the blame is best out in the hand of Carl Lund, but 𝑫𝒆𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 is accurately described as a clown car of catharsis: moving from point A to point B without an unclear set of directions (whilst donning a flashing red nose) leading the way. As with Derek Vinyard (everyone’s favorite Neo-Nazi,if such a thing is even possible), the relationship developed between Henry and the people forced on him by both obligation and happenchance are as convincing as they are lethargic : very obviously developing outside of what is being shown on screen when the context calls for more heavily engaging continuity as to opposed to illusively present suggestions.
𝑨𝒅𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒏 𝑩𝒓𝒐𝒅𝒚, 𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒅𝒐 𝑰 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒆, 𝒍𝒆𝒕 𝒎𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒚𝒔…
Following in the footsteps of 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑷𝒊𝒂𝒏𝒊𝒔𝒕, Brody’s performance (amongst others) proves successful as an empathetic wormhole. Despite being transiently balanced, 𝑫𝒆𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕’s cast rests nonchalantly on the heels of pensivity with an obvious dedication to the subject matter and complexity of Lund’s script.
The mumblecore of madness remains compromised throughout, however. As if in step with the pacing, 𝑫𝒆𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 is an assortment of emotions that reflect a chaotic and irritably fleeting environment, but the nature in which they are reflect seems largely removed from reality. It would only be fair to acknowledge that Lund’s vision is often in the right place (And this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, since he has had previous employment as a school teacher himself) in that it addresses the furtive influence of adverse experiences like general trauma - but the extremities ignore clarity in favor of threatening obscurity in unabashedly compartmentalized proportions.
It’s hard to write this without inadvertently invalidating the experience of those in academic related field as I know far too well that I am an outsider in this regard, and perhaps much of what I’m saying should be taken with a grain of salt.
At the risk of being out of pocket, I’ll start by suggesting that 𝑫𝒆𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 has many things to say about a system caught in the middle of extenuating obstacles and ever crumbling confines.
And, on one hand, I get it. In a perfect world the situations audience members are forced to witness would be a two-way street with flawlessly applied asphalt.
That said: I wasn’t expecting this.
I surmised well in advance that Henry’s influence on others would be bloated, and it’s completely reasonable to assume that people with a teacher (Or student, actually) that they would describe as changing the trajectory of their entire lives will read through the lines and find meaning amongst the monotony.
What an absolute clustf***, however. I consider myself far from squeamish, but 𝑫𝒆𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕’s obsession with depravity is borderline compulsive. What is received are not tragedies skirted (rather lazily, mind you) by silver-linings, but an endless slideshow of ‘worst-case’ scenarios driving the functionality (or lack thereof, actually) of its character all of the way home.
(No, really, there’s a part where a child beats a cat to death with a hammer. But I digress 🙃🙃🙃)
If you look up the word ‘Detachment’ in the dictionary this film is likely to come up -
And not because it’s a perfect representation of the word, but because it is instead an aloof attempt amongst other things. With every inch of melodrama the tenacious grip it has on its subject matter slips through it fingers, and much like a stubborn onion it has a variety of layers to offer:
But where the cross-section should be accompanied with tears, it is instead eradicated by inflation.