Film Review: Demolition

In association with The Grosvenor


Brought to us by the director of Dallas Buyers Club Jean-Marc Vallée, Demolition stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis Mitchell. His wife dies in a car accident and rather than distraught he’s left feeling empty inside. He begins to unravel his life to find the root of his emotions, all whilst sending informative letters to a vending machine company. These letters are being read by Karen (Naomi Watts) who finds Davis’ story heart-breaking and wants to get involved in his life.

Demolition is a film that means well. It has good intentions at heart, but too often relies on clichés and forced moments of whimsy. At one point, as Gyllenhaal is venting his woes he says: “Everything has become a metaphor”. While these words do help us understand the character’s mind-set they also summarise the main problem with the film. It’s so fixated on trying to be clever and turning everything the main character does into a symbolic representation of his life falling apart that it threatens to leave the story behind. This is apparent in the film’s shaky editing, which often cuts to random images and scenes that clearly mean something but don’t advance the plot. We spend so much time attempting to decipher these seeming metaphors that we become detached from the film and end up feeling empty instead of enlightened.

There are some good elements to the film. Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favourite actors working today (how the hell was he not Oscar-nominated for Nightcrawler?!) and he delivers a touching performance that we sympathise with; although not as much as the film would like us to. Plus, in spite of a script that tries too hard to be quirky and prefers style over substance, there are some genuinely funny and heart-warming moments. Demolition is not a bad film, but it is a classic case of how trying to be too inspiring can be very damaging. It would have been far more compelling if the film had chosen a simpler route over contrived storytelling. Sometimes less is more.

[Calum Cooper]

Image – Variety

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