I like the storytelling technique of setting up a cliché, then exposing the cliché as a sham. This is a movie takes down a bunch of them: the irredeemable junkie, the heroic schoolteacher, the drug-dealing thug, the poor but bright student, and the list goes on. Mostly the reality exposed is grim, but the film manages to convey some of the things that get us through grim realities without coating them in glitter. The art of this film is that it makes this palatable when it would always be easier to sink into the gut-wrenching, feel-bad genre.
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