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Black Bear


Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon

Director: Lawrence Michael Levine

This is the kind of film that highbrow critics find interesting, while the lower-brow public stays away in droves. 'Are you following this?' asks Gadon early in the film, to which the answer would be a resounding No. But it probably helps if you know in advance that Part Two of the film, which comes last, actually precedes Part One, which opens it.

Now that we've got that clear, we can say that film-maker Allison (Plaza, acting her heart out and then some) arrives at a posh lakeside rental run by quarrelling husband and wife Gabe and a pregnant Blair (Abbott, Gadon).

Inexplicably, the trio spends the whole evening shouting at each other over trivia, after which Gabe joins Allison in a midnight swim, and they come back and have sex, to be discovered by Blair, who has a miscarriage.

There's more, but this is all totally unconvincing, so let's cut to part two, where Allison is an actress being directed by her husband, Gabe, but suspicious he's having an affair with co-star Blair. Now we can see that Allison (later a director?) is incorporating sections of real life into the script of a film (Part One), while giving herself the star part.

Darkly hand-held camerawork drives us all dizzy and may account for one character suffering from diarrhoea throughout Part Two, while continuity-gaffe geeks will chortle when Plaza's knickers change from white to black in the same sequence. The bear of the title appears for a few seconds at the end and almost steals the film.

David Quinlan

USA 2020. UK Distributor: Vertigo. Colour by Company 3.
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 24 Apr 2021