Following a near-death experience in his exile, Walter wakes up to find he has a new friend. The friend is a Cockney beaver hand-puppet on his left arm, also played by Gibson. The beaver is designed to create psychological distance between Walter and the “negative aspects of his personality” and hopefully cure his depression.
Having found a voice through the beaver Walter attempts to engage the world once again, and with some success. The Beaver, as the hand-puppet is called, is a shot of super-glue in Walter’s otherwise crumbling life. But as one might expect, any success based on a projection through a hand-puppet is volatile at best.
Meanwhile Walter’s oldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin), is only pushed further away by his father’s unusual behavior (Walter will only talk through the puppet) in a compelling father-son plot.
Gibson delivers a brilliant performance as he masterfully manages complicated dialogues between the depressed Walter and the witty beaver come to save Walter’s life. It is, of course, Gibson dialoguing with himself and athletically jumping between characters and accents. Gibson’s ability to navigate the two characters with convincing emotional dynamism in uncut scenes is an original and Oscar-worthy acting achievement.
Other notable performances in the film include Jodie Foster’s character as she convincingly fights for the sanity and affections of her husband, and the Black’s youngest son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) as he innocently reconnects to his father through the beaver.
This film is not a comedy despite some lighter moments. It honestly asks the question, “What if everything isn’t going to be ok?” This question forces the viewer, along with Walter, to actually feel suffering, instead of glossing over it with tired clichés.