Think of the most depressing movie that you've ever seen, and multiply the grim factor times a million. I guarantee you, the result would STILL look like "The Mickey Mouse Club" in comparison to 'Detachment'.
I'm generally not opposed to sad movies; in fact, I've enjoyed and appreciated many films that some might even label "depressing." However, I prefer sad movies with at least a GLIMMER of hope, or a touch of humor -- or SOMETHING besides just nonstop despair, scene after scene. There's very little hope or humor to balance the bleakness that permeates 'Detachment'.
Of course, the title alone hints that this isn't the most cheerful of movies; Adrien Brody's sad face on the poster is kind of a giveaway, as well. And I understand that the film's bleakness is intentional (and sort of the point).
However, the dark tone isn't the only reason that I didn't care much for
'Detachment'. While Brody's "documentary" style narration didn't bother me too much, I wasn't crazy about all of the "animated" scenes sprinkled throughout the film; one or two animated scenes might have been okay, but there are WAY too many of them, and they come across as rather amateur-ish. I was honestly surprised to read up on the movie and see that it was made by an acclaimed director (Tony Kaye) and not a recent film school graduate.
I also found it difficult to care much about the supporting characters. I suppose "Meredith" (the lonely high school student who develops an attraction to Mr. Barthes) kind of intrigued me, but I LOATHED what happened to her and how that scenario played out! "Erica" (the runaway who moves in with Henry) turned out to be less annoying than I expected, though I'm not sure that her character was necessary (and a couple of her scenes are a bit... dramatic).
As for Henry's teacher colleagues, I wasn't really invested in them, either, except for perhaps the teacher who felt invisible (played by Tim Blake Nelson; his character "Mr. Wiatt" could have used a bit more development, though, if the movie was going to bother showing him at all). Lucy Liu's "big scene" didn't strike me as believable, and Blythe Danner is just plain thankless.
(Though I will say that Danner and Marcia Gay Harden very much "look" their parts; Harden especially looks the role of the stern administrator who'd begin lectures with "You NEED to...")
If not for Adrien Brody's performance, I might have REALLY disliked this movie... or maybe even hated it. But Brody is excellent in his role as substitute teacher Henry Barthes; he makes the character sympathetic, yet realistic, and he's very believable and engaging in the role. Because he's so good in this, I actually WANTED to like 'Detachment' better than I did.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for me to recommend 'Detachment' -- but at least Brody's performance is something of a saving grace. (4/10)