Walter Black ('Mel Gibson') is depressed and sleeps most of the day. It's driving his family crazy, and his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) kicks him out. Walter starts carrying a beaver puppet and tries to commit suicide (unsuccessfully). He uses the puppet to talk to himself, trying to bolster his spirits, and is trying to rebuild his life. Through the beaver, the family begins to learn about Walter's history and problems, and as he continues rebuilding, the beaver shows us all a way to cope.Written by
This is a picture of Walter Black, a hopelessly depressed individual. Somewhere inside him is a man who fell in love. Who started a family. Who ran a successful company. That man has gone missing. No matter what he's tried, and he's tried everything, Walter can't seem to bring him back. It's as if he's died, but hasn't had the good sense to take his body with him. So mostly what he does is sleep.
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I just rented the DVD last night and must admit was not all that enthusiastic about the choice. Who wants to see a film about a guy who takes up with a toy beaver? But, amazingly, the more I got into the film, the more engrossed I became. Mel Gibson does a brilliant job as Walter Black, a darkly depressed middle aged man whose despair over his lack of feeling leads to lethargy and destroys everything in his life, predictably resulting in thoughts of suicide. No one really wants to die--death is forever. So it's a perverted attempt at self rescue when Walter finds a beaver puppet in a trashcan and converts it into an alter ego--with an Australian accent!-- that restores him to life.
Anyone who's suffered from depression knows what a debilitating, painful mental illness it is. Many turn to alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping-- anything to relieve them of their agony. It is a slow dark march toward death. That Walter bonds with a puppet to drag him back from that march is initially absurd but also laudable. That he succeeds in convincing others that his remedy is acceptable is ludicrously uplifting...at first.
But the puppet is perhaps the mania edge of Walter's bipolar malady. And eventually he finds himself in conflict again, in descent.
What's remarkable about this film is Mel Gibson's performance. He committed 1000% to this role and played Walter Black as a man wrangling with mental illness and trying to deal with it as best he could. I found him totally believable and empathized with him completely.
The major subplot dealing with Walter's son who is more like his father than he's willing to consciously accept is perhaps a bit neat, a bit heavy handed, but it is interesting and does work. Kudos to the screenwriter for whom this script was a first time effort and first sale.
Mel Gibson has had some personal problems also played out spectacularly in the media. I suspect he's not far from Walter Black himself. As a black person, I should be upset at him. But I'm not. I don't believe he's a racist for some reason. I believe he was, he is, a man under pressure and an unhappy man rooting around for a joy in living that once came so easily for all of us. I've always been a Mel Gibson fan and will continue to be.
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