Reviewed by: Christopher Marsden Winter
|Featuring:||Mel Gibson … Walter Black
Cherry Jones … Vice President
Jodie Foster … Meredith Black
Anton Yelchin … Porter Black
Riley Thomas Stewart … Henry Black
Zachary Booth … Jared
Jennifer Lawrence … Norah
Jeff Corbett … Volunteer Dad
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Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ
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“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 His little boy is still there for him, but how do you reach a very depressed and withdrawn daddy?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.