TORONTO— “Demolition” is the second of two films at the Toronto International Film Festival with a strong Canadian connection, A-list talent, and a story that begins with a car crash and burns with loss.
But whereas “Every Thing Will Be Fine” (starring James Franco and set in Canada) is starved of action and churns quietly, “Demolition” (directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée) smashes with emotion and leaves bruises.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Davis Mitchell, a man who has it all—and didn’t have to work too hard to get it. He’s coasting through life when a car accident claims his wife. He’s back to work the next day, seeming unfazed, only to slowly crumble from the loss, bringing a variety of appliances and buildings down with him.
There’s a kind of gleeful abandon that young boys were once all familiar with, before days roaming outside were replaced with video games in the basement. “Demolition” pays tribute to some part of that as Mitchell’s unravelling sees him connect with the teenage son of a woman who is a bit unravelled herself.
They partake in the kind of destructive joys young boys can get into: smashing things, loud music, stupidly dangerous games.
In some ways, “Demolition” is a film about those who break the confines of expected behaviour, people looking for a connection to something that still matters, something they really care about, something to feel. Like the consuming joys of a favourite band, or racing against friends on the playground, desperate to win, at least once.
Gyllenhaal plays the numb, broken widower with finesse while Naomi Watts plays a perfectly cooky cohort. Judah Lewis, playing the teenage son, engages with every scene. A solid cast in a film that brings both tears and chuckles.