Demolition

 

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A banker decides to deconstruct his life after the sudden death of his wife in Jean-Marc 

Vallée's strange and absorbing drama.

 


Demolition

No going back: Judah Lewis and Jake Gyllenhaal 

 

Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an investment banker with the perfect life. Or so he thinks. He’s got a fabulous house in the New York suburbs, a beautiful wife, Julia (Heather Lind), and money is anything but a problem. Then Julia is killed in a car crash that leaves Davis virtually unscathed, physically and apparently emotionally. And while everybody around him mourns, Davis embarks on a revealing correspondence with Karen (Naomi Watts), the customer service agent of a vending machine company. It starts as a complaint (he wants his $1.25 back), but evolves into something entirely more personal, drawing Karen and Davis into unchartered waters…

 

Jean-Marc Vallée makes films in which anything can happen. You cannot second-guess him. Here, he unfolds a domestic drama that, in spite of its familiar trappings, takes off in unexpected directions, while never losing its grip on credibility. It is this mix of grounded realism with the unforeseen and shocking pirouette that makes Demolition such a powerful, frightening, strange and liberating experience, like a well-constructed novel with an unknown agenda. It’s sprinkled with off-centred motifs that eventually come together in a symphonic showdown.

 

Vallée, whose previous features include C.R.A.Z.Y., Café de Flore, Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, is a master of his form. Not only does he solicit truthful performances from his actors, but he orchestrates them into a cinematic tapestry where sound and image drive his story – and its attendant emotions. Bryan Sipe's screenplay provides plenty food for thought, while Yves Bélanger's seductive visual palette constantly beguiles the eye. Jake Gyllenhaal proves yet again that he is one of the most interesting actors of his generation, and Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper – the latter as Davis’s grieving and discomfited father-in-law – lend terrific support. There’s also a stand-out turn from the 14-year-old Judah Lewis as Karen’s 15-year-old son, a performance that recalls the complexity and perspicacity of Jodie Foster at the same age. It’s refreshing to see a young actor playing older, rather than the conventional opposite (not all 15-year-olds look 21).

 

The end result is something extraordinary from a mainstream distributor this side of Cannes: a mysterious, scary, darkly humorous and highly original film for grown-ups about grief, love, anger and forgiveness.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Polly Draper, Heather Lind.

 

Dir Jean-Marc Vallée, Pro Lianne Halfon, Russ Smith, Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, Sidney Kimmel, Jean-Marc Vallée, Thad Luckinbill and John Malkovich, Ex Pro Jason Reitman, Sceeenplay Bryan Sipe, Ph Yves Bélanger, Pro Des John Paino, Ed Jay M. Glen, Costumes Leah Katznelson.

 

Black Label Media/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Mr. Mudd-Twentieth Century-Fox.

100 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 29 April 2016. Cert. 15.