An educator and the school where he works are both on the verge of collapse in this hard-hitting drama from director Tony Kaye. Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody) is a gifted teacher whose psyche has been taking a beating -- he still bears emotional scars from his mother's drunken tirades while he was a child, and he's been forced to look after his grandfather (Louis Zorich) as he dies a slow, painful death. Henry has become a substitute teacher rather than fully commit himself to his students, but his latest assignment takes him to a high school where the building is in sad shape and the staff are faring no better. The principal, Carol Dearden (Marcia Gay Harden), is dealing with an unsupportive school board and a hostile husband (Bryan Cranston), Mr. Wiatt (Tim Blake Nelson) is being driven to the edge of a nervous breakdown, Mr. Seaboldt (James Caan) is too cynical to care about his work anymore, and guidance counselor Dr. Parker (Lucy Liu) spends more time insulting the students than helping them. As Barthes struggles to find a reason to continue, two troubled kids break through his wall of ennui -- Meredith (Betty Kaye), an overweight student who is a target for bullies among the students and staff, and Erica (Sami Gayle), a 15-year-old who has sex for money and is used as a punching bag by those around her. Detachment received its world premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.
by Mark Deming synopsis