Demolition movie full length review - Film Review: Demolition
Grief is a funny thing; its affects on people change not only the person experiencing such a powerful and life-altering emotion, but it changes the way people around you view you, and the choices people make around you.
One of the many emotions and reflections that the film allowed me to analyze was, thankfully for myself, the lack of grief that I have had to experience in my life thus far, and the amount of grief stricken in the world around me, with numerous people who have directly dealt with lose first-hand in my life everyday.
Jean-Marc Vallée, the director of many heavy-handed drama films like C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria, The Dallas Buyers Club, Café de Flore and Wild, really loves to make movies with heavy use of symbolism. In his newest directorial effort, Demolition, the symbolism for the deconstruction of Davis' life, played unflinchingly by the always stellar Jake Gyllenhaal, really doesn't hold back its explicit nature. Living an overall numb life from the moment we meet him, Davis seems to live each and everyday with very little to almost no real, pure emotions. Rather, explaining the paths of his life with monotone vigour, including the timeline of his wife's life, their meeting, and ultimately, her tragic death, Davis becomes avery difficult man to like, in all aspects of his life.
What's funny about Demolition is, the film's life begins with Julia's (Heather Lind) death. In some of the very first and brief scenes of the film, we see Julia and Davis interact, almost as any other couple would; comfortable, passively and without much conviction. What starts off as a simple conversation in the car between husband and wife, quickly turns deadly, as the car is hit, Davis is bloody in a hospital waiting room with his in-laws Fil and Margot (Chris Cooper and Polly Draper) waiting on the news of his wife's fate. As we see in the trailer, Julia never makes it. Fortunately for us, Vallée has an amazing way of allowing audiences to see an obscure and unexplored perspective on so many moments we come to expect to see in film, and turns them on its head. For example, after the news of Julia's death, Davis makes his way into the operating room where his wife once laid. The room, empty and full of blood on the floors, white operating sheets and medical tools used to attempt to save her life, is one of the first very poignant images Vallée has become famous with offering, giving perspective on the very real images of life, more specifically, on a moment many people never really see or associate with death on a hospital bed; an empty bed with nothing but blood and shattered prayers.
As the early reviews of this film began to flood online after its initial premiere and choice as the opening night film for TIFF 40 in 2015, Demolition has seem to be one universally accepted film to divide people. Going into the film, I was wondering why. I mean, Gyllenhaal is one of the supreme acting forces of our young generation, Vallée is an excellent storyteller and director, and the supporting cast and crew is nothing short of talented, yet, the film, scripted by Bryan Sipe tells a very discombobulated tale of one many's very operatic struggle to cope with one of two things; the death of his wife, or the realization that he was never in love with the woman he was married to. The film begins to show, not why, but, all the if's in Davis' life.
At times, do not get me wrong, Vallée's film is nothing short of emotional. But the emotions cannot be ignored to being very manipulative, using scenes of loss and confusion to justify erratic behaviour of characters whose backstories are mostly absent to us. For one, Davis, we come to the understanding early, suffers from common emotional displays of affection and genuine love, yet, without spoiling the ending of the film, does offer many questions to the audiences. Why does he choose a path of destruction for answers? What are his obsessions with others? Why is he fascinated with certain people and not others? The film, which is suppose to be a very realistic, post-trauma film humanizing the loss and pain people feel during times of distress and disbelief, becomes a very segregated film about the pains and struggles about real people, living very real lives, doing very cinematically pleasing things. One of my biggest peeves with the film is showing too much about the stress and grief of Davis' loss,and less with the understanding why he is like this, who he was before and what he was like when he was married.