Published Sep 23, 2016This review was originally published during TIFF
Two Lovers and a Bear does not disappoint in delivering on its title. The fifth feature from Montreal director Kim Nguyen absolutely gives you those three things.
Set and mostly shot in Iqaluit, Nunavut, the film follows Roman (Dane DeHaan) and Lucy (Tatiana Maslany), two star-crossed lovers who only have each other. Each plagued by issues with their fathers, the pair eventually decide to run away together. Of course, they're doomed before they leave — besides their emotional baggage, the naïve, youthful pair are trekking across the tundra with nothing but snowmobiles.
While one might expect the titular bear to be the source of Roman and Lucy's downfall, he actually plays a much different (and far more outlandish) role. The animal can talk to Roman, and occasionally appears to shoot the shit and dole out some drunken polar bear wisdom.
That's not the only supernatural element in the film, either. Lucy is often haunted by her sexually abusive late father, who appears to chase her through hallways and creep up on her at night. Then there's the glacial landscape, which appears as a living, breathing organism thanks to some solid camera trickery.
There's a lot of Two Lovers and a Bear that works very well. The real-life sets, for example, are eye-popping as we watch snowmobiles race through an arctic landfill, marvel at the Northern Lights, explore a Soviet-era military outpost and feel the freezing claustrophobia of carved-out ice caves. DeHaan and Maslany are also fantastic together, as their onscreen chemistry ramps up the romance and elevates the film to another level.
The problems with Two Lovers are all in the pacing, as the film doesn't seem to know what tone to strike. The quirky talking bear seems like it'd be a great metaphorical centrepiece for the film, but he's hardly in it, only cropping up between melodramatic crying fits, frank discussions of sexual abuse, erotically charged sex scenes and hokey Canadian humour. (At one point, a police officer catches Roman on the verge of suicide and calls in for backup: "We've got a man with a rifle and a broken heart. Can you send some beers?") Factor in some overly earnest White Stripes references, and this film is certainly not for everyone.
Still, thanks to its solid performances and jaw-dropping visuals, there's enough about Two Lovers and a Bear to make it a worthwhile entry into Canada's canon of weird sex and snowshoes. (eOne)