Contrary to potential assumptions, Half Nelson doesn't star a single guy named Nelson. Rather, it's about a popular inner-city schoolteacher and basketball coach named Dan (Ryan Gosling), and the debilitating wrestling move that inspires the film's title instead materializes as a nasty drug habit that threatens to undo all his success.

Nelson's overlying plot mirrors that of any number of after-school specials, and there are a number of moments here in which a lesser film might've blinked and taken the easy way out. Fortunately, that's something this one never does, and the result is both uncomfortable and kind of inspiring in a non-schlocky sort of way.

Gosling's Oscar-nominated performance certainly makes Nelson worth seeing, but it's Shareeka Epps' turn as student, basketball player and unlikely confidant Drey that makes it worth remembering. Anthony Mackie also stars.

Extras: Crew commentary, deleted/extended scenes, outtakes and music video.

Grade: A