Today, we chose to present you Demolition, the twelfth movie directed by Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, which was released in theatres last spring and on DVD on the 2nd of November 2016. It is a touching psychological drama that offers a different perspective on the painful question of the loss of loved ones.
With Demolition, Jean-Marc Vallée – who also directed the unforgettable Dallas Buyers Club that won three Oscars in 2014 (including the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Matthew McConaughey) – confirms that he is a drama specialist and a very fine observer of human relationships.
In this movie, Jake Gyllenhaal, who is best-known for his role as a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, plays Davis Mitchell, a banker working in the firm created by his father-in-law Phil (interpreted by Chris Cooper). He is a workaholic and he focuses more on his career than on his family life. So, he is as successful as a yuppie can be. But, one day, he loses his wife Julia (Heather Lind) in a car accident and develops a strange obsession for demolition.
A peculiar way of facing grief
Anyone who has ever lost someone he or she loved knows that there is no miracle solution to recover from such a tragedy. You can only make your best. Nonetheless, at the beginning of the movie, we feel a little bad while watching Jake Gyllenhaal – who is really convincing as a widower – act like an automat as if he were anaesthetized or numb and progressively become an outcast. Throughout the movie, Davis Mitchell keeps following the same rituals. This is shown on screen by the repetition of the same scenes where we see the main character’s hand putting down the remote control for the electric blinds or the alarm clock ringing. But, as the plot unfolds, Davis flies off the handle.
As he stubbornly requests a reimbursement for the few dollars he put in a defective food dispenser, he starts an ambiguous relationship with Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts), a customer service worker who is actually a junkie and a clueless single mother. From then on, he starts fleeing his in-laws and destroying everything that comes into his hands.
Using this metaphor, Jean-Marc Vallée gives his own vision of sorrow which differs from the inevitable fives stages of grief that are often described in American movies or TV shows. According to him, it is better to plumb the depths to resurface.
Wreck everything to start over
When Davis Mitchell demolishes his house and his environment, he discovers parts of his life to which he had never paid attention as well as the truth about his marriage. The clean break allows him to understand his late wife’s real personality and respect her will as she would have wanted him to. This idea that truth lies in the middle of chaos is also at the core of the story of Karen Moreno’s son Chris (Judah Lewis) who decides to stop playing a part and be himself after he has been literally knocked out.
In fact, this praise of destruction goes beyond mere grief. Jean-Marc Vallée seems to encourage the spectators to stop doing things by half and patch their lives up because, in the long run, everything ends up falling apart. So, best tackle problems head on in order to solve them once and for all.
Demolition, Jean-Marc Vallée, USA, 2016, 1h41, released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the USA on the 19th of July 2016 and in France on the 2nd of November 2016.