The Beaver

Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones, Zachary Booth, Jon Stewart, Riley Thomas Stewart
Director: Jodie Foster

Having watched THE BEAVER it is easy to understand both why it has taken so long to go from script to screen but also why so many people have fought to get it there. It is the story of Walter Black, a man who loses himself so deeply in depression he attempts suicide. A beaver glove puppet offers him a new voice and a new chance but can his family and Walter cope with this new presence.

What ultimately makes THE BEAVER such an essential piece of film making is it’s originality. I can think of no film since DONNIE DARKO that manages to balance drama, comedy and just plain weirdness so well. Where it succeeds also is that rather than just being weird, there is real emotional weight here.

It helps that the 4 main leads are all on top form here. Obviously it is difficult to watch Mel Gibson and ignore the public meltdown he has recently experienced. This is particularly apt when his character here is falling apart just as dramatically. But Gibson manages to look the part – I have never seen him look so weathered – but also he has the tiredness and energy that his character requires. Foster as his wife is the least rounded of the main characters, but Jodie Foster can elicit empathy with very few lines as she proved in A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT.

As Walter’s son, Anthon Yelchin almost overshadows Gibson especially in the scenes he shares with Jennifer Lawrence. He looks and acts like a young Gibson but brings an edgy youthfulness to his yearning relationship with her. Ultimately his story may occasionally distract from the stronger main storyline but his final reconciliation with his father is extremely moving.

It is by no means perfect. Foster directs as well as acts and as before shows her strength is mainly in performance rather than directorial tricks. She is not a showy director and occasionally the dull palate of colours make the film a bit too grey. This is not an easy story to tell and the tone could easily drift. There is humour – especially in the bizarre sex scenes and she shows a fearlessness that the story needs.

This tone sometimes jars and there were uncomfortable moments where the audience seemed unsure of whether to laugh or not. Certainly there are some very funny situations but also this is a very adult and intelligent study of depression and how it affects a family.

This was always going to be a difficult sell. It has been made more difficult by the real events surrounding its star, but I hope this film finds the audience it deserves and that this new voice gets a chance to tell other stories as rich as this.

5 out of 6 stars

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