Release Date: August 4
A family on the point of collapse… A wife who can no longer cope with her husband’s volatility… A man who has slid from the heights of success into the depths of emotional instability… Could Mel Gibson have chosen a project that was closer to home? But The Beaver might actually be his way back to public acceptance after a colossal fall from grace. Through it we not only glimpse his acting brilliance but honest truths about the darkness of depression.
Gibson plays Walter Black, a father and businessman trapped in the jaws of that ‘black dog’. He’s so despondent he finds it almost impossible to get out of bed. Both his company and his family are suffering from his emotional absence. As the narrator puts it,
“Walter’s depression is an ink that stains everything it touches, a black hole that swallows everything that comes close.”
After years of failed treatments his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) is at her wits end. Their two sons can no longer relate to their father and she has begun to withdraw inside her work. It’s no surprise this story begins with the end of a marriage. But as Walter sorts through the detritus of his life and prepares to move into a hotel room, he comes across a bedraggled animal puppet. Call it psychotic break or mental miracle, this beaver provides Walter with a voice for all the things he cannot say. Walter begins to rebuild his business, his family and his marriage. But will his furry friend prove to be a shield against a cruel world or the cage in which he hides?
Christians are in the business of asking people to undertake a thorough renovation of their habits, their relationships, their essential character. The Beaver illustrates just how difficult transforming change can be. Walter’s puppet tells him,
“You’ve seen too many home improvement shows. You think you can splash up some paint, re-arrange the furniture and everything will be OK. If you want real change you have to blow up the whole goddamn building.”
Now in this tale the beaver’s advice turns out to be catastrophic. Walter ultimately discovers that the puppet is a voice for the darkest side of his character that wants to “…snatch life back from that blood-sucking rabble,” who are actually his family. But the advice sounds true because the principle is sound. Meredith wants her husband to return to the way he was, but Walter knows he has to let go of the past when the past is part of the problem. This is what Jesus referred to as being born again. We can’t hope to keep our old life unchanged if it’s also responsible for bringing us to the point of death.
However the best blessing to emerge from The Beaver doesn’t come from a hand puppet. Porter, Walter’s estranged son, exposes the six-word lie that sits at the heart of many movies: “Everything is going to be OK.” Whether it’s depression or spiritual death, healing can only begin when we accept that life is full of problems that are beyond us. “But one thing I know is true,” Porter concludes. “You do not have to be alone.” And the same can be said for those who find themselves without a family like Walter’s. King David learned that truth when he had even fewer friends,
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
1 Psalm 9:9,10 (NIV) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+9&version=NIV
Review by Mark Hadley