Watching The Beaver made me nervous. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and mostly in the exact ways that I expected that I would, but it was in all of the rest that I was always fearing the film might suddenly take a wrong turn. There are a few moments within the screenplay by Kyle Killen in which could be classified as such, and part of the reason seems simply to help move the plot along to a satisfactory ending. The forceful hand of the screenwriter should not be so obviously present in the way a film is able to wrap up neatly by the ending. It just feels lazy.
The shame is that there is so much to be enjoyed amidst a somewhat emotionally manipulative close. The performance by Mel Gibson is well balanced, staying subtle even in the absurd scenario. Similar to Ryan Gosling’s performance in Lars and the Real Girl as a man so lonely he falls in love with a sex doll, Gibson plays a man so depressed that he starts speaking to everyone through a beaver puppet which he finds in the garbage. Walter (Gibson) is a successful business man heading up a toy company; he is married to a successful wife (Jodie Foster) and has two kids. Walter should be happy, but instead he is depressed. So depressed that his wife resents him after time, and his eldest son (Anton Yelchin) longs to erase all traces of his father from his behavior, hoping he won’t grow to be like him.
There are many moments which are humorous, and how can this not be the case when dealing with a grown man who talks in a cockney British accent through an old puppet. But much of the film is actually much more serious. This is a film which deals head-on with depression, and even suggests it to be a hereditary disease which should be observed. In this sense, The Beaver is a bold and exceptional film.