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Issue 1769 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

Black Bear ★★★★☆

Film contributor Eva Borras reviews the 2020 American thriller "Black Bear", starring Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, and Sarah Gadon.

Black Bear Poster Photo: Momentum Pictures


in Issue 1769

Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, Black Bear takes place at a remote lake house in the Adirondack Mountains, New York. Allison (Aubrey Plaza) is a writer and director who decides to work on her next movie script in a relaxed out-of-town house, whose hosts are soon-to-be parents Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Sarah Gadon). Upon meeting the filmmaker, an uncomfortable and uneasy atmosphere is created in their conversations; and as the film progresses, the tension between them increases as conflicts and jealousy arise.

During the first night Allison is there, the three of them get drunk and end up having heated conversations about how the role of women in society has changed with time. As the conversation evolves, it becomes clear to the audience that Allison gets along very well with Gabe, which sparks Blair's jealousy and leads to the couple having a serious discussion of their own.

Although the feature focuses (for the most part) on Allison’s point of view, as the audience, we also get a glimpse of what the relationship between the couple is like when Allison is not in the room. When watching this film, the most noticeable feature is a single scene that is repeated three times as if it was completely new, giving an odd feeling of structure and dejavu to the audience. It is the first scene of the film which repeats after each part is introduced, where Allison is quietly sitting in a dock admiring the lake in front of her in a red bathing suit. She stands up and leaves, however in each scene she walks to a different location where the plot for each of the two parts continues.

With a mixture of comedy and mystery, it has a lot of unexpected turns and metaphors which are invisible at first, and are left for the audience to interpret.

Without giving too much away, Black Bear will definitely subvert your expectations. With a mixture of comedy and mystery, it has a lot of unexpected turns and metaphors which are invisible at first and are left for the audience to interpret. For instance, the name of the movie itself refers to a ‘bear’ that seems to be hiding in the bushes outside the house, yet no character other than Allison seems to be aware of it in any way.

Similarly, the key part to the story is how outstanding Aubrey Plaza is as Allison. She expresses her emotions and thoughts very clearly, effectively communicating with body language what words can’t. Plaza convincingly brings to life the complicated role that Allison entails as her character changes throughout the film. It is worth mentioning the carefully constructed relationship between Gabe and Blair, which makes both Abbott and Gadon stand out when their dynamic changes as circumstances change.

In conclusion, if you get the chance, this film will not disappoint you as it has a very unconventional plot and will make you reconsider what each of the two parts have in common and how they relate to one another.

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