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 — the damaged and naive prostitute Erica (Sami Gayle), a fellow teacher (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 grandfather. 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.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
Stefan Avramoski as Marcus
Filming took place in Mineola Middle School and Mineola High School on Long Island, New York.
In March 2012, cast member Bryan Cranston was asked about Detachment during an interview. 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.
In January 2012, Detachment won Best Picture at the Ramdam Film Festival in Tournai, Belgium.
A reviewer for Student Handouts, which reviews books and films for those working in education, said: "It easily makes Dangerous Minds look like a pandering Lifetime made-for-TV movie."
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.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 57% rotten rating with an audience score of 74%.