Review: Demolition

Layered, sensitive performances with all the room in the world.


Quebecois director Jean-Marc Vallée continues his steady march into Hollywood—you have him to blame for Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar—following up Wild and Dallas Buyers Club with the Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Demolition. Gyllenhaal, who’s made two films with Vallée’s fellow ascendant Francophone, Denis Villeneuve, stars as Davis, an investment banker whose wife dies in a car accident. A hospital vending-machine incident inspires Davis to write his life story to the machine’s customer service department. The recipient, Karen (Naomi Watts), tracks him down. His wife’s death wakes Davis up inside and, realizing he never noticed anything, he takes everything apart, literally: Starting with a faulty lamp, ending with his house, underscored by the film’s thesis that when it comes to the heart, “you have to take it apart and examine all the pieces. Only then can you put it back together.” Gyllenhaal, Watts and the astonishing young actor Judah Lewis as Karen’s son put in layered, sensitive performances, with Vallée offering them all the room in the world.

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