Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) tries to make it a perfect three-for-three in Gala Presentations at TIFF with the premiere of his latest film, Demolition – and I believe the Canadian director does just that.
Known for bringing the best out of his actors, Vallée does no different with Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Davis Mitchell, who has recently lost his wife in a car accident while trying to cope with the grief of those around him and the illusion of his lack thereof. From the outside looking in, Davis is seemingly very disconnected from the grief that encompasses his in-laws, parents, friends, co-workers and even himself. A trait that is evidenced by his need to send a letter of complaint to a vending machine company after the peanut M&Ms he paid for gets stuck behind the plexiglass 10 minutes after his wife’s death.
From the moment customer service rep, Karen (Naomi Watts) reaches out to Davis to speak about his multiple letters, he forms a bond with her through their shared phone calls, and later on, her unsettled teenage son Chris, played by talented newcomer Judah Lewis.
Throughout the film, Davis ponders his father-in-law’s words about things that are broken- that you have to take whatever it is apart completely, in order to fix it.
Away from the guise of putting on a brave face, he realizes he took for granted one of the most important pieces of his life and while he attempts to cope, he takes the fixes literally and tears down a literally destructive path, that at times could be comical, but displays the wide range of emotions a person goes through while they are in pain.
While on his demolition derby he begins to notice various items that were disregarded before like a leaky refrigerator, a squeaky door, a flickering lighting installation- which all need ‘fixing’, something his late wife pointed out as Davis “didn’t pay attention”. But what ultimately needs fixing, is him.
The film teeters between comedic and dramatic elements well, lifting the audience up, only to bring them back to the reality of the tragedy at hand and the complexities of grief, relationships and coping with death.