Ryan Gosling received his first Oscar nomination for portraying crack addicted high school history teacher Dan Dunne.
Ryan Gosling's performance here is in a whole many ways not a very "performing" performance. He has few scenes where his character really "acts" out all that much. He usually acts a very much a normal person would. He generally does not get too emotional in any sort of bombastic way. His emotions are never really ever shown in that way because Gosling always plays Dunne at a very subtle emotional level. Which well, and especially goes along with the tone of the rest of the film.
Dunne is a history teacher who tries to teach his inner city students, by getting them to really think about history for themselves. Gosling is very good in the school scenes, he shows how Dunne actually sort of puts on a little bit of a performance when he is teaching. How he moves along a lot faster in the class room than in his normal life, and that he has more energy when he there. Gosling shows how Dunne really is almost like another person because he is teaching, in the way he handles his students, and his class as well as he does.
He far different out of his classroom though, and acts far more passive, as he seems to almost simply wander through his life while taking drugs throughout. Gosling is very good in showing how Dunne clearly does not have any exact direction just more of going along. Gosling keeps in line with the film with the realism of his performance which seems rather simple at times, but is always appropriate for the film, and its tone. He plays Dunne as a tired man in some ways, but Gosling never makes his performance boring, and always has a certain charm that work very well in his performance.Despite his performance that is rather quiet at times, but always suggests more about Dunne despite the outward simplicity of his performance.
Dunne though finds a little more direction when he befriends one of his students (Shareeka Epps) who saw him well he was taking drugs. They get along very well, and have an interesting friendship. Gosling and Epps work very well together both, creating together a realisticand interesting relationship together. He also begins to attempt to help her in attempt to keep her out of the life of her drug dealing brother. Well doing this, he begins to become more frustrated and a little more emotional rather in his somewhat tired state in the beginning of the film. This does give him a little more chances to shine with a little more overtly emotional scenes. Gosling is consistently effective in these scenes, and is especially effective when he finally directly confronts the brother. Gosling shows how confused and frustrated Dunne is since he wants to help her stay away from the drugs despite taking the drugs himself. Gosling Mixes the emotions of Dunne perfectly in the scene and it is the strongest scene of a very good performance. Gosling is perfectly consist, realistic, and effective in his role. His performance is non traditional in many ways, but it always works in tune with film.