Demolition (15)

William Leng reviews Jean-Marc Vallée's new film starring Jake Gyllenhaal

16th May 2016
William Leng reviews Jean-Marc Vallée's new film starring Jake Gyllenhaal

The modern world is commonly accused of having become impersonal, despite technology broadening the possibility for connection between people further than ever before.

Perhaps director Jean-Marc Vallée feels aggrieved, because it is clear that he believes a level of honesty has been lost. That is what Demolition seems to want to reclaim: honesty. The purity of penning a letter, tearing down walls with your bare hands or admitting you don’t love someone or something the way you’re expected to. Emancipating the inside, absolving the out. Unfortunately, Demolition’s storytelling feels pre-assembled, and clichéd.

Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) has no idea how to react when his wife is tragically killed in a car accident. Everyone is seemingly doing the mourning for him: his parents, his in-laws, his co-workers. But Davis is coming to terms with having never loved or understood his wife, and confides in a concerned customer service worker for a vending machine company, Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts), befriending her and her son Chris (Judah Lewis).

As you might expect, Gyllenhaal is excellent, particularly when our protagonist cuts loose. Davis deals with his loss by regressing in maturity, almost to the level of a child, free from responsibility and the superficiality of his professional life. He unburdens himself of his emotions. It is an affecting sentiment in the end, to let go of one’s baggage in a time of crisis.

Vallée, though, burdens his audience with shoddy voice-over and rote plotting. While there are a few surprises, nothing about Davis’ arc screams originality. In fact, the whole film feels shielded by a Hollywood sheen, which Vallée’s first hit Dallas Buyers Club triumphed without.

Despite some intimate moments, Demolition feels less like a wrecking ball through a condemned skyscraper and more like a misfired tennis ball through a garden shed window.

Rating: 6/10

More like this: Seven Pounds (2008)

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