The Beaver (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner17/06/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Though not quite the black comedy you might be expecting, this is an emotionally engaging drama that's worth seeing for its terrific central performance from Mel Gibson, though it runs out of steam in the middle section and gets a little too bogged down in its less interesting, beaver-free sub-plot.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jodie Foster, The Beaver stars Mel Gibson as Walter, a husband and father whose teenage son Porter (Anton Yelchin) has practically disowned him and whose wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) is on the point of walking out after a nervous breakdown leaves him nearly catatonic with depression. After a failed suicide attempt (and, to be fair, a bang on the head), Walter finds a discarded beaver puppet and decides to let The Beaver do all his talking for him, by way of a radical new form of therapy.

The Beaver's no-nonsense approach quickly turns Walter's life around and soon he's an attentive father to his young son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart), a loving husband to Meredith and back on top in his job as the CEO of a toy company. However, Porter remains unconvinced and refuses to reconnect with his father, preferring to spend his time pursuing popular cheerleader Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) by agreeing to write her valedictory speech.

The Good
Gibson is terrific as Walter, convincing both as a man in the depths of depression (there's a lot of good “eye acting”) and as The Beaver, which he voices as a cross between Michael Caine and Phil Mitchell. Foster and Yelchin are both solid in support and Stewart is adorable as Henry, but the supporting honours are roundly stolen by Lawrence, who's both heart-stoppingly gorgeous and refreshingly against-the-grain as Norah.

Foster establishes an intriguing and effective atmosphere that's by turns moving, suspenseful, creepy and darkly funny (keep an eye on the puppet during the sex scenes). She also adds several subtle little details, such as a shot of The Beaver with his mouth tightly clamped on the side of the table when Meredith begs Walter not to speak through him during their anniversary dinner.

The Bad
That's not to say there aren't problems: for one thing, we never see the “real” Walter because we never see him before his depression, so it's hard to gauge the scale of what he's lost. Similarly, the film runs out of steam in the middle section where it pretty much abandons Walter in order to concentrate on Yelchin's less interesting, beaver-free subplot, though it does rally for a simple but effective climax.

Worth seeing?
The Beaver is a thoughtfully directed, emotionally engaging drama that's worth seeing for a terrific performance by Mel Gibson.

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Content updated: 11/12/2019 08:48

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