Still hot off the success of his previous two accolade-winning films (Dallas Buyers Club [2013] and Wild [2014]), Jean-Marc Vallée explores similar themes in a less formulaic way with his latest dramedy Demolition.

Demolition stars Jake Gyllenhaal (who has recently been a frequent collaborator with another Quebecois/Hollywood filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve) as investment banker Davis Mitchell, whose wife is tragically killed in a car accident.  Mitchell’s catharsis is catalyzed by acts of vandalism or demolition – hence the title.  He also begins to develop an emotional and potentially romantic bond with Karen (Naomi Watts) and her son, Chris (Judah Lewis).

Working off of Bryan Sipe’s excellently balanced script, Vallée is able to explore familiar themes, including coping with sudden tragedy and personal fulfillment.  However, sometimes those familiar tropes and themes emerge awkwardly, such as when Chris reveals that he is a closeted queer (a familiar storyline plays out in C.R.A.Z.Y., another Vallée film).  While this reveal should carry significant dramatic weight, the subplot never fully materializes.

Demolition is well-served by Jake Gyllenhaal’s fierce, Oscar-worthy performance.  Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper (playing the aloof father of Mitchell’s late wife) submit fine supporting performances as well.

Under Jean-Marc Vallée’s empathic direction, Demolition is an admirable return to the director’s less “prestigious” pictures.


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