22 April 2016.
The title is unfortunate, for it may keep people away, thinking it’s just another Schwarzenegger destruction blockbuster. It is nothing of the sort. It is rather an introspective, modern tale of a man’s blocked emotions and his inability to love.
Jake Gyllenhaal once again gives a fascinating, Oscar-worthy performance (remember “Brokeback Mountain” or “Nightcrawler”?) as the man who has just lost his wife in a terrible accident, and realizes that he feels nothing, neither grief nor any loving memories of their relationship. To find himself, he feels the need to physically destroy much that was his past life.
In his despair, a strange relationship grows between him and a vending-machine employee, along with her young son who is struggling with his own identity crisis, brilliantly portrayed by angel-faced newcomer, Judah Lewis.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée creates here a moving portrait of a man unraveling, especially touching in scenes with the precocious boy. But the script at times deals with too many issues, and the relationship with Naomi Watts feels contrived, as is her portrayal.
It’s nevertheless a powerful film that will remain with you, especially Gyllenhaal and Lewis’s performances.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.