Vallée calls it his most “rock and roll” film to date, both for its pulsing soundtrack in a film otherwise punctuated by silence, and its often provocative and offbeat portrayal of grief.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Davis Mitchell, a New York investment banker coming to grips with his wife’s sudden death. But he has been sleepwalking through life for so long that he is detached from the tragedy.
An unexpected connection with a vending machine company’s customer service employee, played by Naomi Watts, eventually helps him express his grief. In one scene, Mitchell demolishes the expensive, minimalist home he shared with his wife.
The movie had its world premiere this week at the Toronto film festival.
“I could relate to Jake’s character and I guess that’s what kept me on. I wanted to direct this beautiful script,” the Canadian director said on Friday.
Vallée said Bryan Sipe’s script “was something special and unique. It’s rare to read something that powerful, where you just turn the pages and you’re surprised, you don’t know where you’re going.”
Vallée’s last two movies, “Dallas Buyer’s Club” and “Wild,” brought a slew of Oscar wins and nominations for its stars.
But “Demolition” is not scheduled to open in the United States until April 2016, which would put it out of contention for this year’s Hollywood awards season.
The movie is Gyllenhaal’s third big outing this year. In “Southpaw,” he also played a man struggling after losing his wife. His movie “Everest,” about a fateful 1996 climbing expedition, opened the Venice film festival last week.
Gyllenhaal said it was a process to work out how his character feels about his loss, compared to what society expects.
“I think that’s a bit uncomfortable, particularly as an actor, to try and figure out, not what you’ve been told what grief is supposed to be, but just discovering as you go … It was really actually a journey the whole time.
“Feelings don’t come when we expect them to, so he (Vallée) shoots a movie in the same way … it’s not telling you the obvious in a conventional way and that’s beautiful, because I think that’s how we walk through life,” Gyllenhaal said.