jpark’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'm the kind of guy who buries everything deep down. If someone close to me died, you wouldn't know it unless I told you. If I got fired or failed a class, my general demeanor wouldn't change enough to be noticeable. I internalize everything, burying it deep down inside and doing my best to ignore until eventually, it just goes away or the world solves the problem for me. It's a quietly destructive system of dealing with hardships, but from my experience I think I would prefer it to the alternate, more vocal and public approach. People often deem this method unhealthy, something I vehemently disagree with. I'm a put together individual, relatively mature and pretty steadfast in my fundamental beliefs and morality, especially considering I'm 19. Demolition is one of the first films I've seen that seemed to reflect my methods for dealing with stress (on some level anyways) that didn't ultimately indict them. I loved it.
As a film, Demolition is a quiet powerhouse of emotion. Jake Gyllenhaal continues to justify his standing as one of the finest actors working right now, giving a quiet and darkly comedic performance that is absolutely fundamental to the success of the film. Naomi Watts, an incredible actress in her own right, seems a bit off kilter and awkward, but so is the character she is playing so I have no issues with her work here either. Jean-Marc Vallee's direction here is great as well, weaving a sort of confused story together through effective editing and a fundamental loyalty to the subdued mentality of it's protagonist. A quick look at RottenTomatoes and I see that many are calling this a "slog", or a film that doesn't necessarily reflect the tragedy of it's narrative. But Demolition takes place within Gyllenhaal's head, attempting to cinematically represent the process of internalizing grief and strife, which I feel inherently lends itself to a subdued atmosphere.
But the moments that need to land do, mostly consisting of another character desperately trying to salvage any sort of emotional response from Gyllenhaal. I found the film to be profoundly relatable, perhaps the most I've ever seen in it's interpretation of grief and loss. Now let me make a few things clear. I'm 19, so I've never lost a wife, a child or a parent. I've never torn down my house or taken apart my fridge, and I've never really dealt with any stress outside of relationships (romantic and platonic), grandparents passing or dogs dying, school related stress or financial concerns. But stress is relative, and I saw myself in Gyllenhaal's journey. There was no scene with him crying himself to sleep, or breaking down at the deceased's gravestone. No constant screaming, anguish or turmoil. Life went on, and only those around him aroused any emotion following his wife's death.
It's a fundamentally human film, masquerading as an absurdist comedy while dealing with some of life's most confounding scenarios. It's a film that tracks Gyllenhaal's breakdown, bravely painted with humor and melancholy alone. And amidst that insincerity the film finds some beauty in the breakdown, as Gyllenhaal eventually finds his answers within the rubble of his old life. I can sympathize with Demolition's detractors, but personally I found something really beautiful that I hope to cling to and appreciate further as I mature. I found a film that doesn't malign my mentality towards adversity, but rather explores it and tries to understand it. It's a film with sympathy for it's conflicted protagonist, and subsequently I found sympathy for myself in there as well.
A personal favorite.
Part of 2016 Films Ranked