SXSW Film 2016 Review: DEMOLITION

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Close to two years ago, acclaimed director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) offered audiences the true story of Cheryl Strayed and how she overcame her grief for her deceased mother and her subsequent drug abuse in the amazing film Wild.  This year Vallée and screenwriter Bryan Sipe brought to SXSW a very different story (this time, fictional) about coping with loss and grief.  Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the film Demolition examines how grief effects an emotionally detached investment banker and his subsequent breakdown.

Gyllenhaal portrays Davis Mitchell, a man who loses his wife in a tragic automobile accident.  Davis and his late wife Julia (Heather Lind) had been going through a rough patch in their marriage just prior to the accident.  Prior to his wife’s untimely death, the self-absorbed Davis had been so immersed in his work that he had no idea how bad things were really going in his marriage.  As the realization of his loss gradually sets in, Davis suffers a major breakdown and has no idea how to cope.  A fateful incident connects him with an unhappy single mother named Karen (Naomi Watts) and her son Chris (Judah Lewis).  These new connections and a fondness for a new cathartic hobby helps Davis put the pieces of his shattered life back together.

Though not quite as incredible and remarkable as Wild, Demolition would make a lovely companion film/double feature with it.  The film definitely has a rock ‘n roll attitude and approach to how the protagonist handles his issues and it is quite refreshing and entertaining.  The screenplay by Bryan Sipe is both lovely, fun and sometimes electrifying.  The story does get a bit incongruous, but I suppose it is somewhat appropriate when looking at the plot though the eyes of the protagonist.

In addition to the exceptional performances by Gyllenhaal, Watts, and Lewis, the film also features stellar work by Chris Cooper, C.J. Wilson, Heather Lind, Polly Draper, Malachy Cleary and Debra Monk.  I was particularly impressed with Judah Lewis who shows great talent in what is his second feature film.  I strongly recommend this movie for something a little different, but therapeutic for those who have struggled or are continuing to struggle with mourning and loss.  The film opens in theaters on April 8.

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