Review: Demolition (dir. Jean Marc-Vallée)

demolition

Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. Despite pressure from his father-in-law, Phil (Chris Cooper), to pull it together, Davis continues to unravel. What starts as a complaint letter to a vending machine company turns into a series of letters revealing startling personal admissions. Davis’ letters catch the attention of customer service rep, Karen (Naomi Watts), and, amidst emotional and financial burdens of her own, the two form an unlikely connection. With the help of Karen and her son Chris (Judah Lewis), Davis starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.

Jake Gyllenhaal continues his wander down the alternative/indie cinema track with this study of PTSD, loss and healing. I found this film to be enjoyable in parts but overall it is a film unsure of what it wants to be.

The film suffers from two plot lines pulling for equal attention. On one hand you have the tale of a tragic loss and the consequential falling apart of a man dealing with the repercussions of the loss of his wife. Running alongside this is the other story of the relationship between Davis and Karen as they help to heal each other form their loss and loneliness.

The film however never picks which of these elements is the main thread and that for me was problematic. Both are worthy tales, both have their interesting plot points but the lack of direction for the viewer in which of these is the film’s primary focus was an issue.

This is not to say that the film is not interesting or entertaining. Gyllenhaal gives another great performance and is one of the best out there. One sequence where he dances down the street, while wearing headphones, is particularly entertaining. The film also despite its subject has a lovely sense of humour which is helpful given the issues raised.

Demolition is an interesting idea for a film and certainly could be viewed alongside films such as Take Shelter in terms of its depiction of mental health issues. It is a film that if more focused would be more memorable but as a potential alternative to Captain America: Civil War (also released this weekend) it would certainly be worth a look.

Demolition is on general release from 29th April.

Thank to MovieHouse for screening access.

 

Nightcrawler: Modern Horror

nightcrawler_gyllenhaal_727

Nightcrawler is going to feature in a lot of ‘Top films of 2014’ lists and rightfully so. This dark tale of one man’s obsession to achieve notoriety through others suffering is certainly one of my favourites of 2014.

Gyllenhall has never been better, gaunt almost with a ghostly transparence, wide haunting eyes that would suit the features of any nocturnal animal drawing the viewer deeper into his world of darkness. At times he can be found flitting between shadow and light in a manner that sums up his character perfectly.

It is the modern urban world that lights this film, the neon glow of city skylines and the strip lighting of cheap restaurants. Not since Drive has such a nocturnal film had such an impact on me. Gyllenhall may be the star but he is not the only character that elicits horror in the viewer.

In order for Lou Bloom to be a success he must sell the footage he takes to the media and more specifically Nina played by Rene Russo. A story and footage of a house break in is where the horror lies. Brought to the point of exuberant joy at the footage of chaos,blood, destruction Nina feeds the story to her news readers. She repeatedly tells them to emphasise the horror, the pain, be strong on heightening fear, screaming at her colleagues to tell the viewer over and over again how to feel about these criminals still ‘at large’.

Watching Nina was the point in the film where the true horror of Nightcrawler was revealed. The realisation hits the viewer that we are being fed many messages day and daily each with their own agenda.

There comes a point where we recognise that not everyone has our best interests at heart. Not everyone is speaking the truth. There are those more content in pedalling their own messages and agenda than helping others. Nightcrawler shows us this from a media perspective however it sadly stretches more widely than that.

We are being informed subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) what to think. Our reactions are being triggered by the information we are being fed, Our capacity to make our own judgements is tainted by sources great and small.

The media, churches, colleagues, friends, politicians, family all have voices and influence in our lives feeding us opinions that may contribute in some way to the formation of our opinions. The trick is learning to hear the relevant and truthful voices among the noise of those clammering for our attention.

Nightcrawler is a great modern horror story. The reality of this tale however may be more horrific than the film itself.