Jake Gyllenhall proved himself to stand out as a praiseworthy actor in recent films like Nightcrawler, Prisoners or even years back in Donnie Darko. Nonetheless, even his noticeable performance did not cause Demolition to be an outstanding drama – Jean-Marc Valle’s story is dragged out and Gyllenhall is the only reason to keep us till the end.
Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a succesfully living man – married to a beautiful woman, financially secure and living in a rich mansion. But one day brings a drastic change to Davis’ life. His wife dies in a car accident and as a consequence, his reality is shred into pieces. To somehow counteract against the overwhelming void, he becomes a pen friend with a woamn from a vendor machines’ company (Naomi Watts).
Jean-Marc Valle is a director, who likes to rely solely on his protagonist, building the plot only around him – just as happenned in Dallas Buyer’s Club or Wild. Davis is an intriguing character, bathed in his comfy-and-luxurious life, but at the same time seems to be emotionally shallow, which is only revealed once the tragedy happens. His wife’s death doesn’t strike him as it should – instead of an endless grief, Davis feels emptiness, a paralyizing numbness, yet in the end of it – there is enormous pain. And this is greatly transmitted by Gyllenhaal’s performance – his witty eyes, at the same time being absent and confused, tell more than his words.
Jean-Marc Valle’s idea for the story did not cover a full-length feature, which becomes highly visible in the second part of the film. Even though the light tone is the right path, the Davis-centered axis becomes tiresome, even despite Gyllenhaal’s efforts. Naomi Watts, who also proved numerously to be a talented actress, feels distant to her role and lacks much of a chemistry with Gyllenhaal. Valle doesn’t elaborate on the background too, giving a coherent yet very hermetic sketch. Although it’s done on purpose, the bits of pre-accident life seem to be too chaotic and selective – a bit more of a detail could only deepen Davis’ character for the viewer.
All in all, Demolition is one of those films that rely fully on the acting of its main character, but surprisingly, even though Gyllenhaal does carry the weight he’s burdened with, the films fails to elicit many emotions. Even though the tragedy sparks Davis’ cold heart to melt, it struggles to equally engage the viewer. And I believe that wasn’t the exact outcome Jean-Marc Valle was looking for.
UMP Grade: 31/50