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Movie Review: The Beaver

Mel Gibson stars in an honest depiction of depression and its impact

In a subplot that ultimately helps determine how the Black family will, or will not, emerge from their trials, screenwriter Killen introduces Norah, a high school love interest for Porter, played by the very talented Jennifer Lawrence (nominated for an Oscar for her performance in last year’s Winter’s Bone).  Perfect on the surface, Norah, it turns out, has experienced her own crises, and it’s through their shared pain that she and Porter, and everyone else in this tale about human relationships, get through.

Foster considers The Beaver a parable, and her bold use of changing tone throughout the film deepens the viewer’s experience. We open with Black, alone, floating almost as if dead in a pool.  The light, the humor, comes when Black takes up his beaver puppet. Foster says that she chose Gibson for the role of Black because he understood the tragedy in comedy; obviously, so does she. And so, the slapstick fades as Foster draws out the humanness from each of her actors, and offers up an honest portrayal not only of depression but also of the healing power of human interaction.

Sadly, if it weren’t for those tabloid reports, The Beaver would be a shoo-in for big box office and multiple awards nominations. But a more accurate measure of the success of film will be how many people’s lives it saves.  There are a whole lot of sufferers of depression out there, and even more who know and love them.  Thanks to The Beaver’s socially active financier, Participant Media, moviegoers will see a note at the end of the film’s credits directing them to a website if they or someone they know needs help with depression. Go to it at www.takepart.com/thebeaver.

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