Demolition, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and written by Bryan Sipe, is a brilliantly executed character film. With quick, meaningful dialogue, and a host of characters that are very much outside the norm – Demolition is a film with a deep emotional core, but it is an emotional core that is damaged and in need of some help. I really became invested in this film and was surprised with what it ended up offering, but what were those offerings? Let’s jump into this review and see.
The story in Demolition follows a man named Davis – played by Jake Gyllenhaal – who loses his wife in a car accident. It’s at this point that Davis begins to let the barriers down within his mind and his heart and begins to confess everything through a series of letters to the most unlikely person – Karen – played by Naomi Watts – a customer service rep for a vending machine company. The two form an unexpected connection and use it to sort out the many issues that plague them both.
So once again, Jake Gyllenhaal continues his domination when delivering a character, and commanding a performance. ‘Prisoners’, ‘Enemy’, ‘Nightcrawler’, ‘Southpaw’ and now Demolition – a list of films that you should not only watch but also ones that highlight how Gyllenhaal has become one of the most interesting to watch actors in Hollywood. In Demolition he begins by pushing you out, by playing the character as the cold and distant Davis, but after the accident and the shift in his life priorities, he begins to very easily pull you in. What was really interesting to watch was how, Jake Gyllenhaal would be playing a man who outwards going wise was a difficult person to get onside with but behind it all was something that made you want to keep investing in his broken path of a journey.
Davis as a character is self-destructive and dangerously honest. An interesting thing came to my mind when Davis had fully settled into the uncontrolled madness of his life and that was how it felt like the film was almost making us, the audience, complicit in the destructive and harmful things he was doing. Despite the deconstructive nature that Davis had now adopted, it was fun to see him let loose, break the rules, dance around the city in the most freeing way, and not care what anyone thought. On one hand it looks like a lot of fun to be this free spirit of a man – I was certainly smiling and enjoying the madness. But then you realise that he’s doing all this because he isn’t dealing with the emotional trauma in a healthy way. This is highlighted quite a bit thorough Davis’ interactions with his father-in-law who does not like in any way whatsoever, how he is managing his grief. We as the audience watch along on this destructive journey, we almost feel like an encouraging part of it, and then when you realise (if you ever do that is) what you’re going along with, you realise something about yourself (it least I did).
It’s an effect like this that emphasised to me just how well delivered the main character in this film was – and the brilliant job that Jake Gyllenhaal did. I had a real emotional response from this films main character and it was all because the film made me believe in him, and want to almost be a part of the let loose chaos.
Demolition also has a great supporting cast of characters. Naomi Watts’ character – Karen, the helpful customer service rep – is someone who doesn’t in any way lead a normal or even happy life. She is also destructive in her own ways – but bringing both her and Davis together helps to shine a light on the positive qualities that both of them share. We also meet Karen’s son, Chris – played by Judah Lewis. Chris is a really interesting character as he is dealing with some real struggles in his young-adult life. He also has that high and mighty, “I’m a kid and I know everything”, air about him. You want to punch his smug face but at the same time dig down into the issues that are making him this way and fix them.
The only disappointing thing that comes from these characters is a lack of a payoff. The film spends a decent amount of time with both, and they play large parts in the development of Davis. However, once the film begins to wind down and our main character is beginning to find himself, it kind of forget to go back and suitably show if any of it was worth it for Karen and Chris. We’re left guessing, which is a loss in the overall story of the film.
What is not a loss is the kind of dialogue that you can really sink your teeth into. This film has some hilarious, some darkly honest and some revealing dialogue. Davis is a character who is done with the lies and double meaning statements – it’s a time for blatant honesty, no matter who he is talking to, and as you can imagine that makes for some really interesting and enjoyable scenes. This is a film that surprised me more than once with the back and forth between characters and it always enhanced the experience. Writer Bryan Sipe not only had a lot of meaningful emotion exist in scenes but he also always kept that harsh honesty at the forefront of it all, and that always kept me interested for the next moment where Gyllenhaal’s character might just tell it how it is, or come to terms with the realities of how it is now.
I have to say that while Demolition looked interesting to me in the trailers – which I’ll quickly add didn’t give away as much as I thought they first did – I wasn’t completely sold going in. Yes, I like the main actor in the film and yes I enjoyed the directors previous work, but something just wasn’t clicking for me. Thankfully this film more than surpassed my expectations. In fact this film (and I wasn’t expecting this) really had an emotional impact on me. The emotional response alone made this film something that will stick with me for some time.
I will certainly be recommending Demolition. This film surprised me and it made me think about some things in my own life. This film succeeded on more than one level; it provided a film that was really enjoyable to watch and it also got me to consider things outside of it, beyond the film itself. That may be overly personal, but that’s not going to stop me from recommending this film.
What were your thoughts on Demolition or this review? Let me know in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my other ramblings, you could either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle (handy link for you there). So all that’s left to say is have a good week and thank you if you made it all the way here.