The phenomenon of 2D nanoindentation of circular "Brinell" indenter into a single crystal metal thin film bonded to a rigid substrate is investigated. The simulation method is the coupled atomistics and discrete dislocation (CADD) model recently developed by the authors. The CADD model couples a continuum region containing any number of discrete dislocations to an atomistic region, and permits accurate, automatic detection and passing of dislocations between the atomistic and continuum regions. The CADD model allows for a detailed study of nanoindentation to large penetration depths (up to 60 Angstrom here) using only a small region of atoms just underneath the indenter where dislocation nucleation, cross-slip, and annihilation occur. Indentation of a model hexagonal aluminum crystal shows: (i) the onset of homogeneous dislocation nucleation at points away from the points of maximum resolved shear stress; (ii) size-dependence of the material hardness, (iii) the role of dislocation dissociation on deformation; (iv) reverse plasticity, including nucleation of dislocations on unloading and annihilation; (v) permanent deformation, including surface uplift, after full unloading; (vi) the effects of film thickness on the load-displacement response; and (vii) the differences between displacement and force controlled loading. This application demonstrates the power of the CADD method in capturing both long-range dislocation plasticity and short-range atomistic phenomena. The use of CADD permits for a clear study of the physical and mechanical influence of both complex plastic flow and non-continuum atomistic-level processes on the macroscopic response of material under indentation loading. (C) 2003 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.