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Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Polly Draper, Malachy Cleary, Debra Monk, Heather Lind

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Like Louder than Bombs, Demolition charts the destructive emotional effects of death on the bereaved.

Unlike Louder than Bombs, however, and thanks in considerable measure to Jake Gyllenhaal’s compelling portrait of the decline, fall and rather unlikely regeneration of a man broken by the sudden death of his wife, Demolition, scripted by Bryan Sipe and directed by Dallas Buyers Club’s Jean-Marc Vallée, largely succeeds in avoiding clichéd novelettish storytelling until the improbable but inevitable, under the circumstances, happy ending featuring joyful characters riding a carousel.

At the start New York investment banker Gyllenhaal is bickering with his wife when she dies in a car accident.

While the sudden switch from everyday banality to stark tragedy has become something of a standard cinema cliché, Valleé and Gyllenhaal pull it off effectively as Gyllenhaal begins to fall apart, destroys his possessions, quits his job and takes up home demolition.

And his letter of complaint to the company whose vending machine failed to deliver in the hospital where his wife was dying brings him into an unlikely relationship with vending machine company customer services representative Naomi Watts and her teenage son…

Unfortunately the initially strong set-up continually loses credibility and leads nowhere in terms of credible storytelling.

That said, Gyllenhaal creates a fascinating, increasingly flawed character who keeps you watching even while the narrative continues to lose credibility and momentum. Chris Cooper, too, is memorable as Gyllenhaal’s employer and bereaved father-in-law.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
100 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 May 2016