Sometimes it takes a closer look to discover what you’re missing in life.
Davis Mitchell didn’t know what was missing from his life and it took complete devastation to finally realise what it was.Davis C. Mitchell wakes up at 05.30 every morning and begins his routine before heading off to work in the city for his father-in-law. However, his normal routine is brought to a halt when his wife is killed in a car crash. Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a man who lives his life but doesn’t actually take the time to really live it. His marriage is one of convenience and his wife existed beside him. It’s only after encountering a faulty vending machine at the hospital following her death that Davis is able to express his feelings via hand written letters to the vending company’s customer service department. At the receiving end of his letters is Karen Morino (Naomi Watts) a single, pot-smoking, mother who is unaware just how significant these letters would become.Struggling to engage with his feelings about his wife’s death, Davis takes some advice from his father-in-law, Phil (Chris Cooper) - "you have to take everything apart, examine everything, then you can put it back together". Taking this advice literally Davis, with sledgehammer in hand, begins to deconstruct his entire life, beginning with a squeaky door in his office's wash room. Sympathetic to his emotional outpours Karen steps outside the professional boundaries and so begins a friendship neither of them thought they needed. Through his friendship with Karen, Davis begins to realise that he never really paid attention, not only to his wife, but to the tiny mundane details of everyday life existing around him. And so begins a journey of re-discovery and understanding what his life was and is really about.
Demolition is a film that despite being slightly cliched in parts is ultimately quite uplifting through its ability to engage with its characters’ journeys towards discovering who they are. Karen’s son Chris (Judah Lewis) is 15 years old and is struggling to identify who he is sexually. His journey isn’t remotely sugar-coated, in fact it’s blunt and brutal, all of which add to the film's ability to make it strangely relatable. Don’t get me wrong, there is something slightly frustrating about a man completely destroying his expensive home and all its contents but the narrative justifies this through Davis’s grieving and search for understanding what his life was actually all about.
Demolition is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has had successes with previous character journey films such as Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, and written by Bryan Sipe. The film uses voiceovers and flashbacks to progress the plot and give insight into Davis’s character. But they are used in such a way, so as not to distract from the main story but work to enhance it and aid towards understanding the mindset of Davis and how it appears so stilted and emotionally distracted.
Demolition is quite simplistic is its execution allowing the characters and their interactions to take centre stage. Silence is a feature which is used frequently when the characters interact, adding emphasis to the stillness they are becoming a part of together. Lively rock ’n’ roll music contradicts the silence and becomes the soundtrack for Davis when he starts to re-engage with his previously subdued self. The scenes of him dancing through the city are sure to make you crack even the smallest of smiles.
A wonderful balance of emotion makes Demolition an enjoyable watch.
Taking on a role dependant on portraying emotion rather than physicality, Gyllenhaal doesn’t falter. This role may not be as demanding as say his part in Nightcrawler or Southpaw, but there is an intensity and certain charismatic charm that somehow only Gyllenhaal can provide. Watts gives a good performance as Karen, a reasonably understated role and predominantly there to support Gyllenhaal’s Davis but she defiantly holds her own and brings another softer dimension to the film.
It’s Karen’s character along with her son that really highlights what Davis has been missing from his life. Lewis is great in the part of Chris, slightly pretentious and thinking he is above the adults around him, exactly what you would expect from a teenager. Donning skinny jeans and black nail varnish, Chris helps Davis tap into his own childhood and likewise Davis helps Chris come to terms with his own identity. In a supporting role is Chris Cooper as the father-in-law, trying his best to support Davis but with a patience that quickly wears thin and becomes frustrated with Davis’s apparent spiral out of control.
On the surface Demolition has all the potential to be a sad film tugging on the heart strings of its audience. But through the three journeys we take with the main characters this story evolves into one of hope and optimism; acceptance of one's true self. Definitely not one for everyone, but for those who are fans of Gyllenhaal and/or warm, uplifting films - you won’t be disappointed.
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