Life & Culture

Film review: Black Bear

This head-scratching dual narrative about creepy games played by a film-maker impresses Linda Marric


All isn’t quite as it seems in this semi-comedic drama from Wild Canaries director Lawrence Michael Levine. Featuring an arresting and career-best turn from Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Ingrid Goes West), Black Bear is not only two films in one but also offers two head-scratching stories in which the lines between reality and fiction are purposefully blurred.

To preserve the mystery surrounding the two storylines, it’s perhaps best not to give too much away regarding the film’s intriguing duelling narratives. Set at a remote lakeside house, Black Bear revolves around a filmmaker’s dangerous and cruel mind-games in the pursuit of artistic perfection.

Just as the symbolic nature of its title suggests, Black Bear is first and foremost about what happens when a person is pushed to their limit both physically and emotionally. Levine presents a deliberately disjointed and deceptive narrative which often feels like a haunting fever-dream and where characters and storylines are interchangeable.

Plaza gives a disarmingly raw and beautifully layered performance as an actress who has to dig deep into her own emotions to deliver the best work of her life. Meanwhile, the always brilliant Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night, Possessor) manages another tour de force as a man obsessed with perfecting his art to 
the detriment of his loved ones.

Overall, Levine has given us one of the most effective, provocative and brilliantly devised dramas of the year. Black Bear successfully explores its subjects’ innermost insecurities and suspicions and is further elevated by a first class performance from Aubrey Plaza.

Black Bear is available from April 23 

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