Time: 100 Minutes
Aubrey Plaza as Allison
Sarah Gadon as Blair
Christopher Abbott as Gabe
Director: Lawrence Michael Levine
A filmmaker (Aubrey Plaza) at a creative impasse seeks solace from her tumultuous past at a rural retreat, only to find that the woods summon her inner demons in intense and surprising ways.
I didn’t know much about Black Bear going into it. All I knew that it was a sort of thriller with some unexpected twists, it starred Aubrey Plaza in the lead role, and it had been receiving some pretty positive responses. Black Bear wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, but I liked it quite a lot, it was great.
I can’t talk too much about the plot, otherwise I’d give too much away, and I really do recommend going into Black Bear as blind as possible. What I can say is that I liked the first act with its initial premise about a filmmaker in a cabin along with a couple. I liked the atmosphere, I liked the interactions that the three characters had, and I was interested to see where it was all leading towards. There’s a certain point in the movie where it takes a distinct turn to say the least. Some other reviewers have been openly talking about that aspect, however for the sake of your viewing experience, I’m going to hold back on that. I’m also not going to go into much of the themes that the movie touches upon. What I can say was that it was quite surprising, and I wasn’t expecting it. Now, I do think the turn was good and I was on board with it. However, it was also a lot to take in, it does admittedly detach you from the narrative, and as a result it loses a bit of its momentum following from that point onward. Also, it does feel like it is missing something towards the end, like it needed another section to tie everything together. With that said I have a feeling it was leaving room for interpretation, because that seems to be what the ending was going for. I’m not exactly sure what the ending was implying but I’m interested in reading peoples’ interpretations. One thing about this movie is that it is very meta and the line between fiction and history is blurred, and when the film takes its turn, whether or not it works for you will make or break the movie. The dialogue is nothing short of chaotic and razor sharp, with some very memorable lines throughout. As said previously, there is an effective atmosphere and uncomfortable tension throughout the movie, you do feel uneasy and it has you riveted.
The acting is great, but it’s really Aubrey Plaza who is the standout in the lead role. Her performance is nothing short of captivating and intense. She delivers the dialogue expertly and emotes greatly with whatever her character is doing or feeling. This might be the best acting work I’ve seen from her, and she was already fantastic in Ingrid Goes West. The supporting cast are good too, especially Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon who deliver some great work here that shouldn’t be overlooked. However, it really is Plaza’s movie through and through.
Black Bear is directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, and his work here is great. It’s quite beautiful to look at, and the way everything is shot with the intense camerawork gave the film a dynamic and real feeling throughout. The use of handheld was particularly effective. The sound design is great and sharp. The bleakness of its cinematography and the haunting score both matched the tone of the movie, and really helped to create a foreboding sense of dread.
Black Bear is an mindbending, unexpected and well directed drama thriller, with effective tension, and some great acting from everyone. To a degree I’d say that it’s not for everyone, but even if it doesn’t completely work for you, it’s definitely worth watching for Aubrey Plaza’s performance alone.