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Med Humanities 38:61-62 doi:10.1136/medhum-2011-010127
  • Reviews
  • Film review

Furry friend or foe?

The Beaver. Directed by Jodie Foster, USA, 2011
  1. Joyce Almeida
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joyce Almeida, 2 Virgins Lane, Battle, East Sussex TN33 0JH, UK; dr.jhalmeida{at}googlemail.com
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The Beaver is a dark, complex and well-made film about bipolar disorder, that also explores the inevitability of its inheritance across three generations of men in a middle-class American family. Directed by Jodie Foster, who also co-stars with off-screen friend Mel Gibson, it tells two stories: that of Walter Black, father and CEO of a failing toy company and that of Porter, his teenage son, who is struggling to deal with the negative feelings he has towards his depressed father, while facing the fear that he is becoming just like him.

In the opening scenes, we discover that Walter is a middle-aged married father of two, who has lacked energy and has been sleeping excessively for the past 2 years. Depressed in mood and without motivation, he is described as “like a dead man who didn't have the good manners to leave his body”. His prescribed medications ren't helping and his father's toy company, which he inherited and now runs, is failing badly. Walter's father committed suicide when Walter was a boy of 7—the same age as …