The story of the awakening of feelings in the tragicomedy Demolition (2015): Plot Analysis & Meaning Of The Film, Explanation Of The Ending.
Genre: drama, tragicomedy
Year of production: 2015
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Naomi Watts, Judah Lewis and others
The meaning of the film “Demolition”, judging by the reviews, is clear to film critics, but turned out to be incomprehensible to many ordinary viewers. The first picture almost did not find a positive response – their reviews are quite restrained, but they deserve the love of the second. Let’s figure out what the main idea of the film is, how the creators convey it, and give an explanation of the ending.
What is the movie about
The wife of successful financier David Mitchell, Julia, dies in a car accident. To his surprise, the hero realizes that he does not experience any emotions in connection with her loss. So, being in the hospital after a tragic event, for some reason he is worried about other – not very significant things, such as a defect in the operation of a sweets vending machine. David writes a letter to the vending company about a machine malfunction. At the same time, he talks about his life, also setting out the details of the current situation with accompanying thoughts.
The role of Davis Mitchell was played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Frame from the film.
David’s father-in-law Phil, part-time his boss, is going to create a charitable foundation in honor of Julia and instructs his son-in-law to take care of this. However, he doesn’t seem to care about the fund. He is more interested in his reflection, letters to the vending company and parsing the things around him into small details. One day, David confesses to a fellow traveler on the train that he did not love his wife, and pulls the stopcock.
Strange letters interested an employee of the company they were intended for – a girl named Karen. She calls David, talks about her life, a friendship develops between the characters. Karen’s boyfriend does not like the extravagant financier, but her son, a difficult teenager, Chris, begins to like him, with whom he also finds a common language.
David’s penchant for taking things apart takes it to the next level: he pays demolition workers to do it for them, and then, with the help of Chris, demolishes his own house as well.
At an evening in honor of Julia’s charity, David learns that she was pregnant by another man and, at the insistence of her parents, had an abortion.
Chris is severely beaten on the street by several people and ends up in the hospital. David also gets beat up by Karen’s boyfriend.
Arriving at the grave of Julia, the hero meets the man there, through whose fault she died. David consoles him and cries himself, remembering his wife.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Judah Lewis as Chris. Frame from the film.
The hero comes to Phil, apologizes to him, holding back tears, says that he and Julia loved each other, but he failed to save love. With Phil’s help, David restores an antique carousel and names it after his dead wife. We see happy children with special needs (Julia worked with them) riding this carousel accompanied by adults.
Chris writes a letter to David about his recovery, that despite the beating, he enjoyed being himself (he had previously talked about his homosexual tendencies), and that Karen had broken up with her boyfriend. He invites David to come to the dock at the appointed time.
On the pier, the hero watches as several buildings collapse on the other side. He sees a gang of children running in a race, and rushes to run with them – the way he liked to do in his childhood.
Interestingly, many viewers who liked the film Demolition give the wrong explanation for the events taking place in it. From the content of some comments to the picture, the following interpretation of the plot can be deduced: David always loved his wife, and the reaction to her death is a protective reaction of the brain, which only weakened over time; the craving for destruction is a consequence of stress.
Frame from the film.
People often rely on their own experiences of losing loved ones when drawing these conclusions. However, in the film there is not even a hint of such an alignment. On the contrary, the director emphasizes the main character’s lack of feelings, his pragmatism and even cynicism at the beginning and complete transformation at the end. Destructive actions are not presented as psychosis. Rather, it looks like a therapy that led to recovery.
To understand the hidden meaning of the picture, you should pay attention to other films of the director. After analyzing them, one can understand that the leitmotif of many works by Jean-Marc Vallee is the struggle of a person with the system through the prism of personal life. This is especially noticeable in the sensational “Dallas Buyers Club”. And, although director Jean-Marc Vallee does not write the scripts for most of his films, he surprisingly manages to place accents that give just such an understanding.
Demolition is no exception: here the hero also opposes the system. True, we are not talking about some system or organization. Rather, it is about the usual order of things for many, when work and consumption displace warm feelings for loved ones and for the beautiful world around them in general, turning a person into an indifferent function. David became a victim of this order: his marriage has long become a routine, he did not pay attention to his wife (in the car before the accident, Julia directly talks about this) and after her death he really did not experience anything at all.
Such indifference to the tragic event surprises the hero himself, and he seeks to find a clue – to understand what is wrong with him. Trying to understand himself, David writes a description of his life in a letter to a vending company. By the way, the Russian word “understand” (that is, “disassemble oneself”) quite accurately describes what the hero does. He literally decomposes his personality, marriage and life into its component parts. He does the same with objects.
The name of the film is more correctly translated as “dismantling” or “deconstruction”. After all, we are not talking about destruction (at least in relation to the life of the hero) – not about destruction, but about decomposition into details in order to understand the meaning.
Understanding something, you should be objective – honest. Otherwise, it will be difficult to get to the bottom of the truth and not plunge into a new illusion. It can be said that David’s honesty becomes a side effect of his activities.
Naomi Watts as Karen. Frame from the film.
In fact, the hero follows the advice of his father-in-law, who said: “If you want to fix something, you need to take it apart. Treating the human heart is like repairing a car: you just do a total inspection, and then you can put everything back together.” As David replays these words to himself, Karen calls him. With her help, he really, as it were, collects his marriage anew, gradually gaining feelings.
Happy moments spent with Julia come to mind. She appears to David as a light vision. The hero also remembers his childhood and childhood dreams. We are shown how David develops emotions over time. The scenes where he pierces his leg with a nail and gets shot in his bulletproof vest while in pain are depicted as moments of healing: the hero begins to feel again. Karen and Chris help David, but they themselves change thanks to him: a teenager understands how great it is to be himself, and a mother becomes closer to her son.
Together with the bright moments from the past, information about the true state of things in marriage with Julia (information about the pregnancy and the lover) also comes – David seems to have all the pieces of the mosaic.
Toward the end, the hero begins to experience the full range of emotions about the relationship with his dead wife. This is confirmed by the scene after the meeting with the culprit of the car accident and the scene of turning to Phil for help. In the last one, David says that he loved Julia. And he seems to contradict his own words at the beginning of the film. But the point is that both of those words are true. The explanation for this paradox looks like this: David was initially removed from his marriage – he simply could not love, being involved in a routine; however, in the finale, he repairs the marriage piece by piece and reclaims his lost relationship and his love.
In the end, he decides to do a truly significant thing for himself and for his dead wife – to restore the carousel for children with special needs. Julia devoted a lot of time to such children – this was the meaning of her life, but David came to this just now. He seemed to have emerged from the cocoon of indifference, in which he had been for most of his existence and where the system had driven him.
The meaning of the ending
In the end, David gets a chance for a new relationship – from the content of Chris’s letter, it becomes clear that Karen is free and can be more than just a friend. However, this is not at all necessary.
David is no longer drawn to destruction – the sight on the other side causes him only a slight shock and a weak smile. His run along the embankment is a return to childhood and a symbol of the fact that he is ready to start a new life, in which there will no longer be a place for indifference. This is the meaning of the ending of the film Demolition: the hero has gone his way, taking himself apart and putting him back together, and will never be the same again.