Demolition comes from Canadian film-maker Jean-Marc Valée (Dallas Buyers Club) and explores the grievance and mental collapse of Davis Mitchel (Gyllenhaal), after he and his wife are in a car crash in which she dies and he escapes unscathed. The film becomes somewhat reminiscent of Donnie Darko crossed with Fight Club, birthing a beautifully original love child of a movie. The factors that weigh into this comparison are some of the best parts of these two aforementioned films: Davis’ tendency to narrate the events at certain points really pulls the audience in and allows us to be frustrated with and understanding of Davis’ actions throughout the film, an utterly beautiful and enjoyable soundtrack and a detached relationship between the main character and their surroundings/society.
As an extremely successful New York investment banker working alongside his father-in-law, Davis has found himself in a mechanical and emotionless career. Not only does this remind me of the office worker protagonist bridging on mental collapse from Fight Club, but Valée really takes it in his own direction with the mechanical nature of his protagonist linking to his sudden urge to take things apart and explore their mechanics and structures. This is the main plot of the film, specifically Davis’ mental collapse, but the way in which he finds himself detached emotionally from his recently deceased wife, her grieving parents and the peculiar road in which his life takes after her death fuelled by the guilt that perhaps it should have been him instead.
There wasn’t a single part of the narrative that was typical and almost every plot point took me by surprise, which was nice to experience and felt distinctively different from a lot of the films I’ve viewed in the last year. The fact that there wasn’t an obvious “it’ll have to end one of these ways” meant the pacing was always smooth; it was like a totally irregular self-narrated documentary exploring mental state, emotional detachment and one man’s specific trials to find himself. The genre of this film is so unrefined and free in a terrific way that it becomes a thriller, romance, feel-good-coming-of-age story.
The film is definitely strongly lead by Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, but the supporting cast, although not star-studded, is absolutely on point. It was a relief to see a film not relying on a cast littered with big names to attract audiences and the other characters totally hold their own in Demolition. Specifically, Judah Lewis’ young teenage character – Chris Moreno – who is also a bit of a social outcast described by his mother as “fifteen, but looks twelve and acts twenty-one”. His relationship with Davis is really heart-warming to watch as he too struggles with self-identity as he can’t seem to find anyone who understands, relates or listens to him properly. Davis’ relentless honesty and almost unknowing tendency to treat everyone as equals in terms of the magnitude of conversations and information he shares with employees, a random vending machine company and now this fifteen-year old boy, really allows Chris to feel comfortable. The first exchange between the two characters is absolute gold, so I’ll not spoil it for you, but its writing is an excellent example of what to expect from this film.
Demolition is an absolute sleeper of a movie where you go in expecting a fairly decent Gyllenhaal lead film and come out completely blown away and loving every aspect. I can’t express enough how much I don’t want this film to go under the radar because it was such a great experience.