A study in grief.
After losing his wife in a tragic car accident, Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes the advice of his father in law (Chris Cooper) and decides to take his life apart in order to find the source of his pain. At its heart, Demolition is a study of grief and how its fallout effects the lives that surround it. Yet in the case of Jean-Marc Vallee’s film, it becomes so much more.
Gyllenhaal gives us yet another great performance in the vein of weirdness that he has adopted since 2014’s Nightcrawler and uses this film to explore the depths of emotion (or lack thereof) that bereavement offers. The character of Davis is an understandably hollow one. From the opening moments of the film we are shown a one dimensional character that has a strained relationship with his soon to be late wife played by Heather Lind. From the moment of the accident, we as an audience are thrown into the bizarre yet mundane aftermath of his life; spectators to his pursuit of meaning. Within moments of the news of his wife’s death, Davis meticulously cleans the blood from his over priced leather loafers, forgetting the litany of stains that coat his shirt. Much like the ideology put forth in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, he has become a victim to his possessions and needs to break free.
Demolition is more than just the title of this film, as deconstruction is what propels this story. Be it household appliances or relationships, this film is a well oiled depiction of finding meaning to the reality that one constructs. At times it can operate smoothly but eventually other aspects will lag behind only to be replaced with more suitable components. In one scene Davis tells his potential love interest, a uniquely broken woman played by Naomi Watts, how he now sees life as a series of metaphors. In this case Demolition can be regarded as the perfect metaphor for this process of change.
The cinematography of Vallee is somewhat contrived, yet the utilization of some experimental editing acts as a palate cleanser and adds greater meaning to the themes of the piece, even though at times it can be regarded as fairly heavy handed. A moment that springs to mind is a slowed down shot of Davis moving forward through a crowd whilst the others lurch backwards into their unenlightened lives. Heavy handed – yet it makes it’s point clear.
It’s rare that a film with such dark subject matter can be viewed as heartwarming but upon initial viewing of this film, it gave me a greater respect for the life that I have; one that isn’t ruled by possessions but by experience. The tale of Demolition isn’t particularly unique but its performances and dedication to subject matter make it a great watch.
4 out of 5