Starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Rated PG
Demolition says so much about love, loss, and rebirth that it’s easy to forgive a few over-the-top moments. Director Jean-Marc Vallée is so sincerely intent on delivering a heartfelt story that he even manages to rescue a few well-worn clichés. When all is said and done, this is a brave film that isn’t afraid to be a little crazy.
What’s really interesting here is how many risks Demolition takes. At its best, it makes the audience walk a kind of emotional tightrope. It’s rare to see a movie that can pull off being so dangerous and so sentimental at the same time. But thanks largely to Jake Gyllenhaal, as a man forced to re-examine his life after his wife dies in a car accident, we’re left with a movie that’s as eccentric as it is satisfying.
Gyllenhaal portrays Davis Mitchell, an emotionally remote financial analyst who begins to fall apart after his wife’s death. His marriage was having problems and he’s unsure whether he loved his wife at all. His father-in-law (Chris Cooper) is worried that Davis is keeping his emotions inside, but it doesn’t take long for us to wonder if Davis is capable of loving at all.
Things begin to change when he writes a series of cathartic letters to a vending-machine company after a package of candy he purchased gets stuck in a machine. The letters capture the attention of Karen (Naomi Watts), the company’s sole public-relations worker, a single mother struggling to raise her precocious teenage son, Chris (Judah Lewis).
Before long, Davis becomes friends with both Karen and Chris. At the same time, he embarks on a strange program of self-therapy that includes taking time off from his regular job to help demolish houses. What begins as a destructive act leads to a rare kind of revelation. It’s our privilege to watch it happen.