Friday, 15 July 2016

Film Review: Demolition

Demolition is about Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), an emotionally-distant investment banker who rips up the rulebook and starts his life afresh after the sudden death of his wife.

You can always count on Jake Gyllenhaal to star in something different, interesting and kinda quirky. He's really found his niche in recent times, whether it's his frequent collaborations with Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) or the amazing, captivating performance he gave in Nightcrawler where he was robbed of an Oscar nomination (I'm still not over it).

Demolition is the latest in this chain and it sees the American actor join forces with Jean-Marc Vallee, the director of Dallas Buyers Club and Wild. In the film Gyllenhaal plays Davis, an emotionally-stunted investment banker who decides to uproot his entire life after the sudden death of his wife Julia (Heather Lind). Through a strange sequence of events, Davis meets Karen (Naomi Watts) and her son Chris (Judah Lewis), who he comes to care for and who help coach him through his grief.

Gyllenhaal delivers another fantastic performance that really grows and evolves with the film. I have a few issues with the character he plays (more on that later), but Gyllenhaal's performance is fifty shades of fantastic. Naomi Watts is brilliant also.

My main issue with the film doesn't stem from any one performance or technical aspect; most of those are solid if not great. No, it concerns the central concept at its core; Gyllenhaal's character coping with the loss of his wife and how he then learns to move on from that loss. Does anyone, or has anyone, ever grieved in this way? Maybe I'm reading into this a little too much, but I don't think anyone actually grieves like this. Sure they might metaphorically tear up their life and start afresh, but do they literally demolish everything they own? Do they bulldoze their own house?

Again, I'm probably reading into this a little much, but it's like they took that core idea, dialled it up to a thousand and lost something along the way. Davis swings between two extremes; cold and distant and ecstatic and driven. The spectrum was simply too wide for me to connect with Davis on a personal level 100% of the time; there are moments where your heart aches for him and others where you wonder if he's going to snap and kill someone. The screenplay (and maybe a touch of Gyllenhaal's performance) steers the character just a touch too close to psychotic at times - maybe that's the point, but it didn't work for me if it is.

Demolition is the kind of movie that will no doubt open up with repeat viewings and affect audiences differently depending on how much Davis' situation resonates with them on a personal level. There are moments of intense sadness and quiet humour, contrasted against some oddly exacerbated character choices.

The Verdict: 6.5/10

With all that said, I'd still recommend checking out Demolition. It's another interesting choice from Gyllenhaal and Vallee's direction is compelling and creative. One or two issues with how the story is framed aren't enough to discourage me from recommending the movie and it's definitely a must-see for anyone who is a big fan of Gyllenhaal.

Demolition is currently screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival. It receives a wider release across Australia on July 21.


  1. I can't say I've ever heard of anyone grieving this way either, but I suppose it's possible. I think Gyllenhaal was great, but my main issue was that it felt like it ran out of things to say about 30-40 minutes in. Then it's like it was just sleepwalking. I think it would've worked better as a short film.



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