The Beaver, a comedy-drama directed by and co-starring Academy Award-winners Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson, is the story of a man living with depression and its impact on his family. Presented by Participant Media and Summit Entertainment, The Beaver explores the complexity of personal challenges that many encounter as part of this human condition.
NAMI had the privilege of talking with Jodie Foster about her interest and experience with The Beaver. The full interview was published in the Winter 2011 edition of The Advocate. The following is an excerpt from the interview.
Why did you feel it was important to undertake this project?
Sometimes, you are drawn to things and you don’t know why. You have some idea of what they are, and then they touch you for unknown reasons. At first they are conscious, and then, little by little, there are other things there. Like all of the movies I have made, in The Beaver there is a real discussion of loneliness and its impact on our lives, how to survive it and accept it as a human condition, how to hold onto others. It is part of my own struggle in my life. On one hand, there is something incredibly beautiful about being alone. No one is with you when you are acting—it is an oddly ecstatic situation and unlivable at the same time.
These two things intersect in the film. There is this father who has a serious mental illness that probably requires treatment. He is sinking further down with his condition, and he thinks he only has two options: a life sentence and a death sentence. He feels powerless to feel anything anymore. He takes this desperate act to live by having the beaver [puppet] do what he can’t, and that is connecting with his family. It is a crutch for him and very much a lifesaver. It enables him to be all the things he is not: a positive and successful person. And over time, he realizes that this prop is taking him over and he has no voice at all any more. He becomes destructive, and his family can no longer accept it.
The movie is also the story of a son and his lifetime of living with his father, as well as the impact of his illness on his wife. The truth is that all of the family members are solitary and all incredibly alone as a result of this condition. The end of the movie is in some ways where the healing process begins, when they are finally able to accept their solitariness and bind together.
Did you do any sort of special research on depression in order to prepare for this project?
I read a lot, obviously. Depression is a part of all of our lives. Everyone has experience with it either in their own families or with friends. I had a lot of personal connection to this topic.