At the Cannes and Toronto film festivals earlier this year it garnered considerable acclaim, so I jumped at the chance to see Two Lovers and a Bear last month before it hit the theatres (it comes out in the US this Friday). It was also chance to see the recently refurbished National Arts Centre.
Be warned: This is a hopeless film. It is well written, well-acted, well directed and will probably leave you feeling a little depressed as you leave the theatre.
When the central characters made the decision to go south, I had the nagging feeling that I had heard this story before and it wouldn’t end well. Think Romeo and Juliette. Minus the bear of course. And I gather there was a real-life incident that inspired this tale.
I’m a big fan of people confronting their inner demons. Outer ones too for that matter. But when you do battle with demons you are entering a spiritual realm. You need to be properly prepared for that adventure. If you try and confront them on your own the demons will win. Every time. In this film Lucy and Roman didn’t learn that, and paid the price.
The Arctic scenery is a major star. It is a very dark film in terms of its mood, and the long Arctic nights add to that. The metaphorical demons seem to come out mostly at night.
The use of Ottawa’s Diefenbunker as an abandoned Cold War era military installation is a nice touch. After all, it is an abandoned Cold War military installation. My problem with those scenes is that, having been to the place recently I couldn’t access the emotions the filmmakers want me to have. I’m not scared of what lies beyond the next corner – I was there in July, I can tell you what is lurking there.
Those scenes reminded me of the first Battlestar Galactica television series in the 1970s. They had an episode filmed on the site of Montreal’s Expo 67. It was supposed to be the ruins of a human civilization, but for me at the time it was a familiar sight, only a couple of subway stops away. Kind of ruined the effect for me.
Two Lovers and a Bear is supposed to be a film that makes you think. It’s not some mindless Hollywood blockbuster, all flash and sizzle with no meat. And it did cause me to think, just not the way the filmmakers wanted. I’ve deliberately not told you much about it.
I’m not sure I would recommend this film, despite its being well done. It depends on what you are looking for in a movie. Hopeless isn’t that appealing to me. The only attempt at dealing with the spiritual side of life is the bear, and I’m not sure the bear really understood what was .going on.