The Beaver (2011)

30.

★★★

Directed by: Jodie Foster
Written by: Kyle Killen
Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin

For Walter Black (Gibson), self help books, therapy, meds and lots of sleep, have been useless in helping him deal with his depression. When all seems bleak for Walter, a miracle beaver puppet found in the trash mentors him in reconnecting with his family, and saving his failing career. But while Walter speaks through ‘the beaver’ with confidence and good intentions, disguised as part of a program designed by his psychologist, his loved ones begin to see a darker force at work in Walter’s psychological health.

Serious drama and a talkative beaver.

Far from being a silly comedy romp, The Beaver digs its teeth into issues of mental health and family relationships as Walter tries to find autonomy after years of suppressed pain. In using a puppet as a mouthpiece for such heavy subject matter, however, The Beaver‘s premise is hard to accept and enjoy. The improvements the beaver brings into Walter’s life, for example, take proportions that are just as big and absurd as the wood chipping animal’s teeth, forcing the audience to question where this sudden miracle mania has come from.

Nevertheless, Mel Gibson makes a comeback from the alcoholism that put his career on a brief hold with a performance that translates the film’s bizarre premise into something of substance. While the overbearing puppet appears to steal the spotlight with his Cockney accent and strangely disturbing presence, it is the silent and sensitive qualities of Walter that remind us Gibson is still there – masterfully and powerfully delivering a role that requires two states of mind. Despite its unconvincing story, the challenging task of turning this script into a touching and well-executed film is an unforeseen success.

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