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.
|Directed by||Tony Kaye|
|Written by||Carl Lund|
|Edited by||Barry Alexander Brown|
|Music by||The Newton Brothers|
|Distributed by||Tribeca Film|
|Box office||$1.7 million|
Detachment is a chronicle of one month in the lives of several high school teachers, administrators and students through the eyes of a substitute teacher named Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody). Barthes' method of imparting vital knowledge to his temporary students is interrupted by the arrival of three women in his life—a damaged and naive sex worker, Erica (Sami Gayle), a fellow teacher, Sarah (Christina Hendricks), and a troubled teen named Meredith (Betty Kaye). These women all have profound effects on Barthes' life, forcing him to both re-discover aspects of his own personality, and to come to terms with both the tragic suicide of his mother and the impending death of his father (Louis Zorich). The film is punctuated with flashbacks of scenes of Barthes' young childhood and his mother's suicide.
Sub-plots include the struggles of Dr. Parker (Lucy Liu) within her role as the school counselor and the painful torment of Principal Dearden (Marcia Gay Harden), who faces her dismissal as head of this deeply flawed school.
Substitute teacher Henry Barthes is called in for a one-month assignment, teaching English classes at a high school with many students performing at a low grade level.
On his first day, he assesses his students' writing skills with an essay regarding how they believe they will be remembered after they die. During this class, he observes many acts of hostility and antagonism, including a student yelling at him and threatening him physically, as well as two students verbally harassing pupil Meredith, with whom he becomes acquainted after class. Later that day, he witnesses more aggression, when the mother of a student who has been expelled for harassing teacher Sarah Madison confronts her.
After school, Henry is called in to the care facility to see his grandfather who is suffering from dementia, as he has locked himself in the bathroom and won't come out. On his way out, after his visit, Henry expresses his frustrations with a staff member, as he believes his grandfather isn't being taken care of properly.
On the bus ride home, Henry sees young sex worker, Erica, get hit by a man who refuses to pay her. Erica attempts to convince Henry to have sex with her, which he refuses.
The next day, Henry reads aloud to the class through the essays from earlier. After reading an anonymous essay (which is assumed to be Meredith's), he becomes aware of her struggles with suicidal ideation.
After visiting his grandfather, Henry again runs into Erica, who he invites up to his apartment. There, he feeds her, cleans the cuts and scrapes on her legs, and allows her to stay for the night. Over the next few nights, she is allowed to stay, though he informs her that she won't be able to stay forever.
At school, the staff have a memorial service for a teacher who has passed away, though none of them liked him, nor do they know how he died.
Later, a speaker gives a talk to the faculty, discussing how the low test scores are bringing down real-estate prices, outraging the exhausted teachers. It is revealed there that Principal Carol Dearden is being fired soon. After the talk, Sarah asks Henry back to her house for dinner. When Henry returns home late, Erica is still awake, waiting for him. She is upset that he went out without telling her, to which he informs her that she can't expect him to tell her such things. However, Henry believes that Erica is showing responsibility, since she went grocery shopping and prepared dinner, which he is pleased with.
Back at school, the counsellor Dr. Parker talks to a student, Missy, about her low grades and lack of ambition, to which she seems to lack any care about. Dr. Parker tries to tell Missy about the importance of education later in life, but she loses her composure as she expresses her frustrations over her own life, which has supposedly not gone how she wished.
Henry is later called into the care facility, where Erica has been waiting for him, because his grandfather has become gravely ill. Henry's grandfather is scared, as he believes he is responsible for the disquiet in Henry's life, and he feels that he cannot leave him. Henry tells his grandfather that he's done nothing wrong and he can let himself go if he wants to. After their visit, Henry and Erica go to the park, where Erica asks about Henry's mother. He details her suicide, the result of an overdose. He also implies that his grandfather had sexually abused his mother, but says that he never felt unsafe around either of them.
The next day at school, Meredith shows Henry an artwork that she made for him. After she mentions that Henry seems like he needs someone to talk to, Henry becomes concerned, as he believes she is referring to herself. When Meredith opens up about her struggles and becomes visibly upset, Henry tries to comfort her. She hugs him, now very upset, asking Henry to console her. Sarah walks in on them (causing Meredith to run away) and expresses her concern that Henry was acting inappropriately towards Meredith. Henry insists that he was just comforting her. However, becoming so horrified by even the mention of committing such acts himself, Henry panics and is overcome by memories of his mother and grandfather.
Later that day, Henry is informed that his grandfather has died. Feeling on-edge after all that's happened, Henry informs Erica he can no longer take care of her, and has social services take her to a foster home. She becomes very distraught, begging him to let her stay, but he reluctantly maintains his stance.
The next day at school, Meredith has set up a cupcake stall. Henry goes to talk to her about the day before, still trying to console her, but she seems reluctant to talk to him. She then eats one of her cupcakes, which she laced with poison, and dies by suicide.
Later, he decides to go visit Erica in the foster care facility. She euphorically embraces him.
- Adrien Brody as Henry Barthes
- Marcia Gay Harden as Principal Carol Dearden
- Christina Hendricks as Ms. Sarah Madison
- William Petersen as Mr. Sarge Kepler
- Bryan Cranston as Mr. Dearden
- Tim Blake Nelson as Mr. Wiatt
- Betty Kaye as Meredith
- Sami Gayle as Erica
- Lucy Liu as Dr. Doris Parker
- Blythe Danner as Ms. Perkins
- James Caan as Mr. Charles Seaboldt
- Louis Zorich as Grampa
- Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as Mr. Mathias
- Brennan Brown as Greg Raymond
- Renée Felice Smith as Missy
- Doug E. Doug as Mr. Norris
- Patricia Rae as Ms. Estrada
- Ronen Rubinstein as Gangsta
- Aaron Sauter as Marcus
In March 2012, cast member Bryan Cranston was asked about Detachment during an interview for Collider. The reporter told Cranston that he loved the movie and then started to ask his question. "Wait," Cranston said, "did you like 'Detachment'?" The reporter said again that he loved it, and Cranston seemed surprised. "I haven't seen it," he told the assembled press. "I'm surprised to hear that actually." When asked to clarify, he continued, "Because I felt that Carl Lund, the writer of 'Detachment,' wrote a really beautiful, haunting script. And I didn't feel that it was honored." Shocked by Cranston's frankness, the reporters pushed him for more on that disagreement. "I was upset with that. I really was. And so I didn't see the movie." He sighed, resigned, and continued, after searching for the right way to phrase himself, "Tony Kaye is a very complicated… interesting fellow." He smiled as he chose his words carefully. "I don't believe that I'll be working with him again. I didn't not get along with him on a personal level. But I just honor the writing. I really think that writing is the most important element there is. It is the springboard. It is where everything starts. And if you don't honor that -- which I didn't feel it was -- then where are you?" He leaned in as if telling everyone a secret. "And I'm not the only actor on that film to feel that way."
In the same month, director Tony Kaye touched upon the issue in a separate interview. "My agent sent me this fantastic piece of writing by a guy called Carl Lund. A writer. One of the things that I felt was how real it was. And writing is really about research and speech and I thought this guy’s really done his homework. In fact it turned out that he had been a teacher. So then it all became very clear. And then when it really began, if you like, really really began was when Adrien Brody sort of popped up and said I’ll do this. A couple of weeks before we were supposed to start to shoot. And then I decided myself at that point I’m gonna hang the whole thing on you [Brody]. And try to build out your character of Henry much more and make it all everything about you. Just you.” The interviewer then asks Kaye if he rebuilt the script at that point. Kaye responds, “Well I reinterpreted it, yeah. When Carl first wrote it, I believe it was a very vignette ensemble thing." ”Carl's script was very impressionistic, and [a] part of what I do, sometimes, [is] very impressionistic storytelling. I used that to its full, here, to try and make sense of it all.... There's more [footage] of Marcia Gay Harden and Bryan Cranston [which] I've got in the hard drives, and I'm hoping to [get] it out, in maybe a longer cut." 
Detachment premiered on April 25, 2011, at the Tribeca Film Festival. Pretty Pictures acquired rights to distribute the film in France. In September 2011, Tribeca Film acquired U.S. distribution rights with Celluloid Dreams repping worldwide sales rights. Territories sold include Benelux (Wild Bunch), Italy (UBU), Middle East (Shooting Stars), Russia (CP Digital), Latin America (California), India (Pictureworks), Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam (PT Parkit) and Taiwan (Cineplex).
On September 9, 2011, Detachment screened in competition at the 37th Deauville American Film Festival in France. It won both the Revelations Prize and the International Critics' Award. On September 18, Detachment was announced as the Closing Night Film at the Woodstock Film Festival, where Kaye was the recipient of the Honorary Maverick Award.
On October 12, 2011, Detachment screened in competition at the Valenciennes International Festival of Action and Adventure Films in France, where it won the Grand Prize and the Audience Award. Later, on October 26, the film screened in competition at the 24th Tokyo International Film Festival. It received the award for Best Artistic Contribution, sharing honors with the film Kora.
Detachment also screened in competition at the 35th São Paulo International Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Foreign Language Film, sharing honors with Chicken with Plums. On November 16, Detachment screened at the 53rd Muestra Internacional de Cine in Mexico.
Critical response edit
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 57% based on 72 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Detachment's heart is in the right place, but overall it doesn't offer any solutions to its passionate ranting." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 52% based on reviews from 20 critics.
Peter Travers from Rolling Stone awarded the film three out of four stars, praising the performances of Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden and Lucy Liu. "Detachment gets to you. It hits hard", he wrote.
- Gordon, Cox (April 4, 2011). "'Detachment', Rocker Doc Join Tribeca". Variety.
- "Detachment". Box Office Mojo. May 3, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
- Radish, Christina (March 23, 2012). "Bryan Cranston Talks BREAKING BAD Season 5, Directing an Episode of MODERN FAMILY, and More". Collider. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
- DP/30: Detachment, director Tony Kaye. DP/30: The Oral History Of Hollywood. March 22, 2012. Event occurs at 7:12. Retrieved May 25, 2016 – via YouTube.
- DP/30: Detachment, director Tony Kaye. DP/30: The Oral History Of Hollywood. March 22, 2012. Event occurs at 22:47. Retrieved May 25, 2016 – via YouTube.
- Tartaglione, Nancy (April 29, 2011) "Pretty Pictures takes French Rights to Detachment". Screen International.
- Fernandez, Jay (September 8, 2011) "Tribeca Films Picks Up Tony Kaye's Detachment for U.S." The Hollywood Reporter.
- Wiseman, Andreas (November 4, 2011) "Buyers attached to Celluloid Dreams' Detachment". Screen International.
- Keslassy, Elsa (August 17, 2011) "Deauville Sets Competition". Variety.
- Leffler, Rebecca (September 10, 2011) "Take Shelter Wins Grand Prize". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Cox, Gordon (September 20, 2011) "Detachment Closes Woodstock". Variety.
- (October 16, 2011) "Detachment Double Crown in Valenciennes" La Voix Du Nord.
- Schilling, Mark (September 21, 2011) "'Detachment' joins Tokyo fest lineup". Variety.
- Schilling, Mark (October 30, 2011) "'Untouchable' Wins Tokyo Grand Prix". Variety.
- (November 3, 2011) "35 Mostra Internacional de Cinema". 35.mostra.org.
- Gijon, Bernardo (November 3, 2011) "53 International Film Festival" El Punto Critico.
- "Beatlesound". USC School of Cinematic Arts. Retrieved December 15, 2022.
- "Detachment (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. March 16, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
- "Detachment (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. March 16, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
- "Detachment". Metacritic. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- Detachment. Rolling Stone (March 15, 2012). Retrieved on April 24, 2014.
- Detachment (2012) – Movie Review for Parents and Teachers. Student Handouts (March 16, 2012). Retrieved on April 24, 2014.