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Movie Review

The Beaver

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, some disturbing content, sexuality and language including a drug reference.

Reviewed by: Christopher Marsden Winter
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Drama Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 31 min.
Year of Release:
2011
USA Release:
May 6, 2011 (limited—20+ theaters)
May 20, 2011 (wide)
DVD: August 23, 2011
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment

DEPRESSION—Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

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ANXIETY, FEAR AND WORRY—What does the Bible say? Answer

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Featuring: Mel GibsonWalter Black
Cherry Jones … Vice President
Jodie FosterMeredith Black
Anton YelchinPorter Black
Riley Thomas Stewart … Henry Black
Zachary Booth … Jared
Jennifer LawrenceNorah
Jeff Corbett … Volunteer Dad
more »
Director: Jodie Foster
Producer: Summit Entertainment
Participant Media
Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ
Anonymous Content
more »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

“He’s here to save Walter’s life.”

Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is depressed. In fact, Walter Black is very depressed. His malaise has seriously affected his job performance as CEO at the toy company he owns, where Cherry Jones (“The Village”) is vice president, his marriage to the lovely Meredith (Jodie Foster, who also directs this movie excellently) and his relationship with his older son, Porter (Anton Yelchin—“Star Trek” 2009) and his younger son, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart), a star in the making!

Walter feels, if he could feel, that he has tried everything this world has to offer (except religion), and his only hope now is to end his life and spare his family and colleagues any further angst. His wife has just about given up on him, and his oldest son has given up on this absentee father—absent in body, absent in mind. His little boy is still there for him, but how do you reach a very depressed and withdrawn daddy?

As the story unfolds, you begin to see why this movie, where one of the main stars is a bright-eyed, comically disheveled beaver puppet with an Australian/East London Cockney accent, is PG-13 (Mel Gibson, though born in New York State grew up in Australia; some of the original Aussies were hardened convicts from Britain’s capital!). There are dark elements. Walter is drinking to medicate himself, using heavy prescription drugs, and attempting suicide. But through all of this “black” darkness, there appears to be a light side, even a comical twist to such a sad tale of woe. Now and again, Walter lashes out with strong language (including the one obligatory Hollywood “f” word), and, towards the end of the movie, he comes up with a very drastic solution to his mental state.

As you watch, you can’t help but think about Gibson’s own mental state. There are many close-up camera shots; as you look into the creases of this fifty-five year old beloved and well-known actor’s face, you see the ravishes of time, alcohol dependency and personal stresses. As many are aware, at the time of filming, he was going through personal legal troubles with his Russian musician girlfriend and mother of his daughter, 1, and sometimes he would leave his trailer, brilliantly film a segment or two, then hurriedly leave to meet with lawyers to discuss the violent threats and emotional abuse case. Jodie Foster has great compassion for Mel, both as his director and as a true friend.

“The Beaver” gives one pause for thought. How do you reach the seriously depressed or even mildly depressed? How do you pray for them, encourage them, challenge them, love them? As Meredith (Jodie Foster) alternates between love and anger, and Porter (Anton Yelchin) just lives with anger, and a deep-seated fear of being like his dad, one’s heart goes out to Walter Black (who lives in a “Black” Hole) and to Mel Gibson, who is coming out of another black hole! You want Walter’s life, AND Mel’s life to get better! You really do. You want them BOTH to find great and lasting solace in Jesus Christ!

The beaver puppet is crass and, at times, crude, as he participates in Walter’s apparent recovery, and even aids him in his non-existent sex life with the long-suffering Meredith, who is trying to hold together a broken husband, an angry teenager, a trusting little boy, and a prosperous, but dysfunctional, family, that is not prospering.

This movie really impacted me and my son, 17, and we talked about it a lot on the way home and for a day or two after. Teenage Porter struggles with his own identity and finds solace in the lovely Norah, played by Jennifer Lawrence “Winter’s Bone”). I liked it. It was sad, often laugh-out-loud funny, interesting, fascinating and helpful in encouraging us come to terms with our own “demons” and with the world around us. If you know a depressed person, or even if you don’t, this movie helps focus your thoughts on some of the things that are important in life.

Though Walter never finds, or seeks, faith in Christ, he is happier because of the sincere love and compassion shown to him by family and friends. I strongly recommend “The Beaver” to family, friends and acquaintances, but, despite the very cute “puppet” trailers, I emphasize it is NOT a movie for young children.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—My wife and I enjoyed watching this movie. It was an interesting take on what could potentially happen when someone’s mind goes to waste. The overall message of the movie is good. Be cautioned, as there are love-making scenes between the husband and wife (no blatant nudity though), and there are a couple instances of strong language. All in all, a good film to watch, as this is not your run-of-the mill storyline.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Hank, age 34 (USA)
Positive—If you or anyone you love is coping with mental illness, especially depression or one of the mood disorders, watch this, all of it. Yes, there are a few offensive words, but this is not Heaven. It is honest and true, and sometimes in life a curse word is the only thing a human being feels they have to let it go. That doesn’t make it the right choice, but it is what it is.

I think that is what this movie is about. Life is what it is, and if we pull away from the love that God has created us to give and receive from each other, we will self-destruct. Accepting each other and life as it is, and showing up even if we don’t know what to say or do is a must. We have to stop acting like we live in Heaven, we do not, yet. We must face this world together, with the love and grace our precious Father has given us, and give it to each other. Being honest with ourselves and facing that pain together does a remarkable thing, it initiates healing and growth.

Show up, and be there even if you just cry together. Please hold each other and pray together to our Father who gave us to each other, not just to survive but to learn how to really live, for Him, together.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Fran Growall, age 49 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This movie was not what I was expecting from the previews. They were very misleading. I was expecting an almost comedy film about a man trying to get his life back, and while there were funny moments, it was no comedy. It was a drama about the lengths people will go to get happy again and discover their identity.

Of course, without Jesus Christ, this is impossible. There was some language, violence, some innuendo (including non-graphic shower scene) and one failed suicide attempt, and the main character’s son is a known school paper forger. That being said, it is a movie with a message, a strong one. Jodie Foster as the co-star with Mel Gibson, also served as the director, and she did an excellent job.

Apart from the darkness of the film, it gets brighter at the end, and is overall, a very well made movie. I would not recommend it for date night, however. This is a film for those who enjoy lots of drama and “coming-of-age” type films.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Jacob Airey, age 23 (USA)
Negative

none

Comments from non-viewers
Negative—…my husband and I rented it. We were enjoying it and thought it could be interesting until the first time one of the characters said g_d. In spite of the Spirit’s convicting us we continued to watch until we heard the same blasphemy again. We turned it off. It’s disappointing that there are so few “clean” movies being made.
—Kiki, age 35 (Germany)

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