Saturday movie review: Demolition

Losing a beloved spouse must be one of the most painful experiences of a lifetime. Bewildering, too, especially if the surviving spouse didn't really love the one who passed. Or at least feels that may be the case once a partner is gone.

Such is the challenge Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis wrestles with in the drama (with a believable dose of humor) DEMOLITION.

demolition film

Davis is a successful investment banker with a lovely wife, a high-end home, a fancy-schmancy car, and good looks to boot. Then his wife dies tragically — which isn't a spoiler, I assure you, as the film is about what comes after the shocking death.

Immediately after Julia (Heather Lind) passes, Davis loses it. But not in the manner one might expect. He first freaks out on a malfunctioning vending machine and makes it his mission to notify the vending machine company of the problem... and get a refund for the mishap. The letters to the company end up in the hands of customer service rep Karen (Naomi Watts), a single mom of an adolescent boy. A guarded — and wee bit wacky — gal who has a fair share of personal issues herself.

The letters move Karen, she responds, the two connect via continued correspondence then face to face.

Davis' beef isn't only with the vending machine, though. He develops a deep fascination with taking things apart. Appliances and more. Initially instigated by advice from his father-in-law (and boss) Phil (Chris Cooper), who appeals to Davis' seemingly disoriented state upon his wife's death. "Repairing the human heart," Phil tells Davis, "is like repairing an automobile. You have to take everything apart, examine everything, then you can put it all back together."

Forget simply taking things apart. Davis downright demolishes things. Everything in his path. Possessions, plans, people — including himself. Yet with the exception of Karen and her son, Chris (Judah Lewis), who seem the only people Davis can be his messed-up self around.


DEMOLITION is an interesting look at the process of grieving. A refreshing look. Davis seems numb to his loss, seems incapable of moving forward in his current life. So he does his darnedest to destroy it. And his connections to all that was, before his wife died. There are surprisingly humorous moments in his attempts.

Much of that levity comes by way of Chris (the scene-stealing Lewis). The kid is trying to figure out who he is in the world at the same time Davis is doing the same. The bond between the two is sweet. And silly. And painful in parts, too. Naomi Watts proves quite poignant as the confused kid's mom, too.

The characters in the most obvious pain are Julia's parents, brilliantly played by Cooper and Polly Draper (whom I've missed since Thirtysomething all those billions of years ago). I can't imagine the pain of losing a child, but I hope I'd have as much grace despite the heartbreak as those two.

I thankfully haven't lost a child or my spouse. But DEMOLITION made me consider just how I might react to such a loss. Everyone has their own way of grieving. Davis underscores that while some ways may seem odd, unexpected, out there to others, they're necessary for the living spouse to continue, well, living.

Once he or she figures out how to put the demolished pieces back together again.

An interview with each of the primary players of DEMOLITION:


DEMOLITION (rated R "for language, some sexual references, drug use, and disturbing behavior") opened in theaters in April of 2016 and is now available on DVD and streaming services. Learn more on the official DEMOLITION website.