Can it really be ten years on from Brokeback Mountain? In Demolition, Jake Gyllenhaal pulls off what may be his strongest part since then, in an incredibly taxing role. How to play emotionally numb, without coming over as too dumb? That’s the task set for the brown-eyed boy by Canadian-born director Jean-Marc Vallee.
After Davis (Gyllenhaal) loses his wife in a tragic accident, his whole social structure starts to fall apart. But this is not a soppy rom com. Do you self-destruct or smash up everything that’s wrong in your world, when your perfect little life becomes a dislocated disaster. Or was it perfect in the first place?
Demolition is Davis’ choice, as the title might suggest. With a domineering father-in-law and shock revelations about the family, the at times bleak movie is not an easy watch, though the Manhattan setting is as alluring as only the Big Apple can be. But there is something rotten at the core of their high-end lives and Demolition is truly psychologically shocking at times. Moments of skewed humour and a great musical soundtrack lighten the load, however.
Do make time for a post-show discussion about how you would behave if your packet of candies got caught in the vending machine in A&E, straight after the death of your partner. In this scenario, calmly cleaning off blood, Davis writes a letter of complaint, ostensibly about the sweets, but really about his life.
His choice to write to the vending machine rep, Karen (Naomi Watts) becomes a bond, which develops between the unlikely pair and her disaffected son (played with verve by androgynous teen Judah Lewis). Davis’ demolition mission leads to rebuilding, but just like the omelette that can’t be made without smashing eggs, other people can get hurt on the path to his solution.
And inanimate objects don’t stand a chance when you get carried away with razing your physical foundations to the ground. As I said, make time for coffee after the show, but don’t use a vending machine for your chosen hot beverage. It could push you over the edge.
by Liz Kennedy
Demolition (15) runs at 101 minutes