DRAMA; 1hr 31min
STARRING: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Riley Thomas Stewart
Puppet regimen: from left, Stewart and Gibson
Toy company CEO Walter Black (Gibson) is acutely depressed, and his wife, Meredith (Foster, also directing), and sons Porter and Henry (Yelchin and Stewart), are feeling it. But when Walter randomly picks up a discarded beaver hand-puppet from a dumpster, he turns it into a drowning man’s rope, giving it a chummy Cockney accent and using it to interact with others as he himself cannot. Surreal as this tactic is, it works until Meredith loses patience with the puppet’s intrusive presence, Porter grows increasingly distant and angry, and Walter’s bond with the beaver becomes a stranglehold.
It’s not easy at first to erase the mental image of a ranting Gibson; yet despite that, he comes through with an impressive, self-obliterating performance. Kyle Killen’s debut feature screenplay is an atypical approach to mental illness, ducking and weaving with intermittent success around the melodramatic and the ridiculous. It’s not without glimmers of promise but nor is it an easy sell: the mood swings are a nagging worry, and the family’s seams of damage run deep.