Director: Lawrence Michael Levine

Runtime: 104 mins

Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon

Synopsis: BLACK BEAR is an intriguing and disturbing, darkly comic tale which constantly surprises as it brutally blurs the boundaries between life and art. Filmmaker Allison heads to an idyllic lakeside retreat in search of relaxation and inspiration. There she meets Gabe and his pregnant partner Blair who could not be more welcoming. After a meal and a few drinks, truths are shared and secrets revealed as playful bickering turns to blatant flirtation. Everything is turned upside down in a second act that views the dynamics of the evening in an entirely different light.


 Director/writer Lawrence Michael Levine [Wild Canaries (2014), Always Shine (2016), Gabi on the Roof in July (2010)] brings us this satirical comedic thriller which is neatly divided into two chapters and is dark, disturbing and constantly surprising as it brutally blurs the boundaries between life and art.

In Part One: The Bear in the Road. At a remote lake house in the Adirondack Mountains, a couple – Gabe and Blair (Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon) -entertain an out-of-town guest, Allison (Aubrey Plaza) who is looking for inspiration in her filmmaking. The group quickly falls into a calculated game of desire, manipulation, and jealousy, unaware of how dangerously convoluted their lives will soon become in the filmmaker’s pursuit of a work of art, which blurs the boundaries between autobiography and invention.

The first section is reminiscent of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, with the trio debating modern life and mores and feminism.  Gradually Gabe and the pregnant Blair start to bicker angrily, while Allison plays mind games and manipulates them.

In Part Two: The Bear by the Boat House. This self-referential film will play again but this time the fourth wall will be broken to reveal a film crew. Our players now inhabit different characters and dynamics. Gabe is now a controlling film director conspiring with actress Blair to manipulate the best performance out of Allison, now the jealous one getting drunk and jeopardising the production. In this section we are in Truffaut’s Day for Night territory with many cinematic in-jokes.  Everything is turned upside down in this second act that views the dynamics of the evening in an entirely different light.

With outstanding acting – especially from Aubrey Plaza [Parks and Recreation TV (2009)] whose dry, sarcastic delivery is greatly contrasted with her later role as diva type actress – Black Bear is an intriguing, thought provoking watch.

The beautiful location is stunningly shot by Rob Leitzell with atmospheric music by Giulio Carmassi & Bryan Scary.

Director Lawrence Michael Levine has commented: “I really worked hard to make a movie that was open to multiple interpretations, that wasn’t easily reducible. When I set out to make Black Bear, I wanted to make a film that felt like a dream that you can’t get out of your head, that you keep coming back to because of its emotional impact, but the meaning of which seems to disappear just as you feel yourself approaching it.As such, I’d like to think Black Bear sets itself apart by fusing realism and surrealism in a way that doesn’t feel forced or academic.

Black Bear is streaming now on digital platforms.

Images courtesy of Vertigo