Demolition Ending Explained & Film Analysis

The meaning of the film Demolition

Jean-Marc Vallee’s film “Demolition” is one of those films, the plot of which is impossible to retell. In any case, to the question “What is the film” Demolition “about?” it is difficult to answer if your interlocutor has not watched the film. And the reason for this is not at all deep symbolism, not an intricate plot, not shocking scenes or dialogues. No, it’s just that the film turned out to be too  vital . And, like life itself, he does not pose any questions and does not try to give answers. He only tells the story of Davis Mitchell, and does not push the viewer to any morality, conclusion, outcome of everything that happened. Nevertheless, it is precisely this fundamental openness and seeming simplicity that cause a tormenting desire to understand: what is the meaning of the film “Demolition”? ..

The development of the main character and the movement of the plot


Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Davis Mitchell is notable to me primarily for his impenetrability. In the first shots, he seems like a kind of Camus hero, an outsider in his own life: he does not notice the world around him, does not notice his wife, does not notice the annoying drops in the refrigerator … This half-asleep existence has lasted for God knows how long. And it would have lasted until the very end of his days if an absurd accident had not intervened – the death of his wife Julia. It is she who brings Davis out of hibernation.

Julia’s death makes Davis look around. In some more formulaic film, grief, depression, attempts to cope with it, a new spiritual uplift would be pulled further along the plot … But “Destruction” is not about that at all. Davis realizes that he does not feel anything: in any case, nothing of what he  should feel after the death of a loved one. Nothing. And again an analogy with Camus suggests itself: remember, after the death of his mother, the hero also did not feel a hint of grief. And this is not cynicism – it is simply an inability to feel anything. But, unlike Camus’s hero, Davis Mitchell surmises that his indifferent calmness is abnormal. And then, for the first time in his life, a desire to understand something is born.

The meaning of the film "Destruction"

If I were preparing this film for distribution, I would call it differently. “Demolition”. Because it is the deconstruction of his life and the world around him that Jake Gyllenhaal’s hero is engaged in.

From awakening to destruction

For the first time in his life, Davis Mitchell asks himself the question: “Why can’t I feel anything?” For the first time in his life, he looks around, notices a malignant leak in the refrigerator, and the creaky door in the working toilet, and a thousand other domestic troubles that he had so easily ignored before. For the first time in his life, he admits to himself that he did not love his wife.

It would seem that this can be finished. To put an end to it, to participate with Phil in the creation of a foundation named after his late wife and move on. But the Q&A machine has already been launched, and Davis guesses that this is not the whole truth. The answer “I did not love my wife” is not enough. It is not enough to notice that the door is creaking. Davis begins to deconstruct the objects of the surrounding world in the hope that somewhere inside the disassembled mechanisms, the essence will be revealed to him. With the same force, he is taken for the destruction of his own life – in the hope that somewhere in its wreckage there will be an answer. And he finds the answer, which is the most difficult to accept, and even to pronounce it is not easy, but through tears Davis still says the key phrase:

Julia and I loved each other … I killed our love.

The insensitive Davis, who is used to listening to his wife in half; Davis, who came to work the morning after her death, as if nothing had happened; Davis, who was equally disliked by Julia’s father and mother; Davis, who seems dumb and deaf when it comes to emotions and experiences – this Davis suddenly, through a series of memories of the tenderness on Julia’s face, her cute notes, the warmth in her voice when she was talking to him, suddenly realizes that she loved him, and all this time he remained blind and did not see how her eyes shone when she looked at her husband.

The meaning of the film "Destruction"

A platonic relationship with Karen also seems to perpetuate Julia in Davis’s memory. It’s a shame that neither Phil, nor Karl, nor even little Chris at first understand the true nature of their relationship.

Julia Carousel

What helped Davis get out of his emotional shell? His acts of insane destruction? Yes, of course: destroying the outer shell – the house, technology, career – he made his way to the very essence of his indifferent existence. Maybe Karen? Yes, her pure, childish interest in Davis, her calm falling in love opened his eyes to the fact that all these years there was another woman in love with him, whom he did not notice. But, paradoxically, the first impetus to get off the usual track, for Davis, was precisely the death of this woman.

And in the finale, finally admitting his guilt, but at the same time letting go of the years that he spent in his shell of indifference, Davis realizes that Julia’s memory will not truly be embodied in a foundation that provides scholarships to such outstanding young men as the arrogant the swimmer who insulted Karen. Davis recalls those moments when Julia gave him her tenderness, and he remained deaf to her. He decides to buy and restore a rare carousel, naming it after his deceased wife – and this gesture, although seemingly small, imperceptible, really brings joy to the children and adults who gathered at the opening. Julia loved them, these little joys, cute little notes, affectionate phone calls … And the carousel is much more suitable for the role of a monument to Julia than a faceless scholarship fund.

The meaning of the film "Destruction"

The malfunction of the vending machine is another accident that moves the plot of the film

Train as a metaphor for life’s journey and the role of chance in the film “Demolition”

Davis Mitchell has been commuting to and from work by train for five years. The road has always been and remains one of the most widespread allegories of life and destiny, so in the film “Demolition” we see how Davis’s life and his attitude towards it change through scenes on the train. In one of the first letters to the vending company, Davis talks about the incident: once a stranger spoke to him, and Davis for some reason lied about his place of work, and then completely turned off the conversation. This is the quintessence of the attitude of the then Davis to life – evasion, silence or an obvious lie.

After the death of his wife, Davis unexpectedly speaks to a failed acquaintance himself, but again he cannot give a direct answer to his question – instead of answering, he pulls on the brake valve. This is also an indicative gesture: at this stage of his life, Davis still has no answers to questions, but there is a desire to act (destroy) and a determination to finally take control of his own life. Finally, on the train, Davis meets Karen for the first time – an allegory of an accident, an unexpected acquaintance. Although in this case we know that Karen deliberately boarded the train to track down Davis, but their acquaintance was a great accident – who knew that it was Karen who would be the person who reads the incoming mail of the vending company? Accident took the life of Davis’s wife; chance put his life on a new track; chance brought him to Karen.

So what is the meaning of the movie “Demolition”? – the reader asks impatiently. And what is the meaning of life ?, – I will answer philosophically. Jean-Marc Vallee showed us a few days in the life of an ordinary person, whose habitual existence turned a tragic event upside down. And life – it does not ask questions and does not give answers. Life has no plot and meaning, except for those with which we fill it ourselves. And Davis Mitchell, I think, brought his life in line with the values ​​that he acquired during a short period of total destruction.

Add a comment

  1. mo

    thank you very much for the great article. I experienced sth similar as Davis and have no answer for a couple of years. Saw the movie clips by random online and questions popped up in my head. Could not quite reasoned Davis until reading thru your article.

  2. Luc

    Awesome! It’s nice to have an article to point to and say: “See this? This is what I think as well! Finally someone else said it too!”. And it’s especially nice if it’s written better than I could manage. Thanks!