WANT a film that’s really going to make you concentrate hard to uncover its meaning? Try this one.
Banker Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) grieves for the wife who died beside him in a car crash. Her father (Chris Cooper) never liked him anyway. When a vending machine refuses to disgorge a paid-for candy bar, Davis writes to the company requesting a refund. Customer service executive Karen (Naomi Watts) is having difficulties with her marriage. Her son Chris (Judah Lewis) is not coping well with puberty.
Those four characters find themselves in relational situations that none of them wants. Davis and Chris form a scratchy alliance. Karen won’t have sex with Davis but the rest of friendship is negotiable. Davis starts demolishing his house with a sledge hammer and other tools. Chris comes to help. Filmgoer watching all this unfolding wonders what the heck it’s about.
Bryan Sipe’s screenplay offers no simple explanation. Which is a good thing. We need films that insist that we think outside the envelope. Jean-Marc Vallée’s direction takes no prisoners.