Opens in NYC on 11 August / Nationwide on 25 August

Going into “Half Nelson,” I was completely prepared for a cliché story on shoestring film stock. Ryan Gosling plays Dan Dunne, a junior high history teacher who molds young minds at a public school in Brooklyn. In fact, the story takes place so deep within the BK, that people drive cars in lieu of conventional modes of transportation like subways, buses and cabs. Huh. I half expected a cross-section of Michelle Pfeiffer and Robin Williams (except with a drug addiction thrown in for seasoning). What unfolds, however, is a little piece of filmmaking that is nothing short of remarkable. Every character, every performance, and every moment is honest and compelling. As for our leading man, I was thinking only of “Murder by Numbers” before the first frame (sheesh), but that is quickly washed away. With his beguiling scrap factor intact, Gosling’s performance in “Half Nelson,” like the screenplay off which he works, is Oscar-worthy.