Out Now On-Demand

Following his Oscar-nominated films Wild and Dallas Buyers Club, filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée directs Jake Gyllenhaal in this comedic drama about an investment banker struggling to deal with the recent death of his wife. His grieving plan: demolishing and rebuilding his house. Co-stars Naomi Watts, Heather Lind (Broadwalk Empire) and Oscar-winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation).


Written by

Comedy, Drama


Rating: M Offensive language, sexual references & drug references


Official Site

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That might mean your wife. And that might make you realise that you don’t give a shit about your marriage. That’s the issue Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) faces as he remains emotionally numb to the fact while everyone else mourns like a ‘normal’ person. He recognises his apparent apathy, but doesn’t know where it stems from, triggering an obsession with deconstructing things – his fridge, his boss’s lamp, the F word – in the lead-up to pulling the plunger on his identity.

As the widowed investment banker, Gyllenhaal’s role is deceptively tough. He’s given very few times to emote (but avoids going full Nightcrawler) since the material purposely defies the audience a definitive opportunity to sympathise or even recognise his grief. However, that’s also what makes the character interesting. Grief is hardly ever portrayed on-screen in this abstract way, and director Jean-Marc Vallée uses his glorious time-weaving intercutting skills (which were so effective in Wild) to provide building blocks that let us pick this man apart.

The problem is that there simply isn’t enough for us to work with. The flashbacks feel slightly limited and the tension between Davis and his boss/father-in-law (Chris Cooper) isn’t given enough time to truly sting. Muffling the story further is his friendship with an underwritten mother (Naomi Watts) and her troubled son, a seen-it-all-before subplot which doesn’t feel all that significant to the story.

This doesn’t make the film a failure, per se, since it still allows Davis to let loose his positive means of self-destruction (a controlled demolition, if you will). It just prevents an entertainingly intriguing character study from being engrossingly fascinating.

Variety (USA)


Gyllenhaal grounds Davis’ wildly unraveling psyche, finding both the humor and heart in a man who admits to having spent the past 10 to 12 years incapable of feeling.

Hollywood Reporter


It’s a unique take on what could otherwise be a morbidly depressing tale of loss and grief...

Washington Post


The oddball grief drama Demolition proves that an actor who could easily be dismissed as just another watchable face is actually possessed of subtle, fascinatingly protean chops.

Empire (UK)


More scientific than genuinely moving.

Time Out New York


Demolition buries its lead actor under a rubble of clichés.

Guardian (UK)


A frustratingly aimless soul-search that veers uncomfortably between quirk and melancholy.

Telegraph (UK)


Demolition is mainly casting about for a point, when it doesn’t feel like a wrecking ball aimed squarely at itself.

FilmInk (Australia)


An incredibly humane film. It does not judge its characters, and it refuses to have villains.

Herald Sun (Australia)


Not for everyone, but will mean a lot for those who can stay on the same select frequency of feeling as its star throughout. (Graeme Tuckett)


Thanks to Vallee's surefooted and witty direction, a passel of very good performances and a handful of terrific songs on the soundtrack, I finished up liking Demolition probably far more than I should have.

NZ Herald (Francesca Rudkin)


There are genuine, moving moments and some hilarious ones but overall it tries too hard to put a new spin on an age-old topic.