May 29, 2023

Film Review – Demolition (2016)


20 plus years ago a certain young man called Forest Gump told the world “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” When I was young that saying didn’t really resonate with me. Like many things understanding comes with age and we appreciate our life’s day by day, when the day comes to deal with grief we deal with it the best way we can. How human race deals with a process of grief can be fascinating and in Demolition those traditional tropes go out the window. Replaced by a hammer as to move on we sometimes have to ‘deconstruct’.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Davis Mitchell, an investment banker who finds himself a widower after his wife Julia (Heather Lind) dies in a car crash both were involved in. Not wallowing in his self-pity or consumed with emotions Davis starts to slowly unravel, struggling to cope and full of emptiness which angers his grieving father in law Phil (Chris Cooper).

Eventually, Davis finds a channel for his cathartic overdrive when he picks up a sledgehammer dismantling machines to understand how things work to fix them. This is all down to a conversation with Phil and a faulty hospital vending machine denying a hungry Davis a packet of M&M Peanuts. This encouraged him to write a complaint letter which captured the attention of the vending machine rep Karen (Naomi Watts) to get in touch. Sparkling a unique relationship which becomes a therapy to ‘de-construct’ his old life.
Dallas Buyers Club found hope , strength in the face of adversity and Death. Wild dealt with the loss of a loved one and how they slipped into our daily lives from sounds, smells, words, items. Demolition if anything is about life falling apart due to struggle with bereavement and the ability to mourn that loss. The 3 films play like an unofficial trilogy that shows that humans are a unique race that always finds their way at the end but not always in the way you expect.

Everything has become a metaphor” Davis goes into overdrive as if Leonard Nimoy‘s ‘If I Had A Hammer‘ was playing in his head 24-7. Going on a free for all Wrestlemania of sledgehammering, even the builders he volunteers his services to, to destroy the houses they are working on are perplexed by his actions. He starts to notice little things that never annoyed him before Julia’s death. From his surroundings at home to the trees in his garden even that car who follows him.

Jake Gyllenhaal is the true shining light of the film. Dallas Buyers Club and Wild brought Oscar contention to both both films but was also like a re-birth of Careers for it’s lead actors Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon. The film came at the perfect time for Gyllenhaal whose on the up after 2 solid turns in decent films (Everest, Southpaw) and off course the superb turn on Nightcrawler. Making Jake Gyllenhaal  one of Hollywood’s finest young actors.
Eyes tell a lot about a person and their emotions especially when there stoic. In Flashbacks, we get to learn those who we believed innocent may not be as innocent (vice versa) as we first thought. But as at times we can be guilty of our own downfall, we might be selfish and what we do is ugly, memories can be sweet but also be our worst enemy too. Davis likes to alienate those people in his current which leaves those feeling betrayed even angrier. With his constant letter writing to Karen, she starts to bring Davis out of his shell but her son Chris (Judah Lewis) seems to connect even more. Karen provides the listening ear, but he opens more to Chris thanks his music whom Davis embraces and dances all the way to work like Kevin Bacon in Footloose.

However as we enter the last third of the film, the plot loses a little part of its momentum. At times it becomes a little cliched and one of the story arcs gets lost. Chris himself has his own inner turmoil’s that find him in hospital, a story that feels a little out of place with rest of the film. look closely Davis is Chris confident which brings the balance back to the film.

Some are calling Demolition a comedy, it’s not. Life and death is no laughing matter (though at times life can be comedy of errors), life does however deliver those moments that make us laugh or smile at the oddest times. Demolition does have it’s funny moments but it’s a journey that’s genuinely moving most of all a quirky uplifting experience.


Drama | Canada/USA, 2016 | 15 | Fox Searchlight UK | 28th April 2016 (UK)| Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée | Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, Heather Lind, Polly Draper

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