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Beaver, The


Stars: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Riley Thomas Stewart, Cherry Jones

Director: Jodie Foster

A mixture of comedy, horror, psychological drama and love story, this uncomfortable movie stars a haggard-looking Gibson as Walter, a man whose depression is as Black as his surname.

Once a successful toy company executive, his life with his wife (Foster) and sons (Yelchin, Stewart) has fallen apart along with his business, and he does little but brood and sleep.

Kicked out of his family home, Walter finds a large arm puppet in the shape of a beaver. A botched and quite funny attempt at suicide ends with half the rented room on top of him, and Walter talking to himself, in a rough English cockney accent, through The Beaver which, though it makes him pull himself together, consumes his arm, his life and his mind.

Unable to take it off, he speaks only through it, with the odd mumbled exception in his own voice. His relationship with his wife, though, improves, for a while, and so do the fortunes of his firm, on the back of Beaver woodcutting kits.

'What seems impossible,' Walter tells his wife, 'becomes real. Things almost feel the way they used to be.' But, alas, The Beaver starts developing a will of its own, much as the ventriloquist's dummy took over its master's mind in the old British classic Dead of Night.

Meanwhile, his older son, who is appalled at the turn of events, is asked to write a speech for the school's gorgeous valedictorian (Lawrence) he admires from afar. He is, however, almost as troubled as his father.

It's a fascinating concept all round, but the central conceit never does seem totally real, and The Beaver's grating tones don't somehow go with the animal itself. All the cast, however, give dedicated performances that hit the mark more solidly than the film.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour by deluxe.
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 11 Jun 2011