Teddy Bear is the first film I’ve screened in advance of the Sundance Film Festival which kicks off at the end of this week in Park City, Utah. And it’s a good one. Featuring elegant handheld camerawork, an introspective story, and strong acting, this Danish gem should be high on your to-see list at the festival.
Dennis is a 38-year-old bodybuilder. A gentle giant, he lives at home in Copenhagen with his diminutive, but controlling mother. His dating life is not quite as impressive as his tattooed physique; in fact, you might say it’s as dismal as that first date shrimp cocktail he orders. Uncle Bent had success finding a bride in Pattaya, Thailand and suggests he do the same. His search for love begins, and he soon finds himself in bars, roaming foreign streets, and in hotel rooms with eager-to-please women. But for a gym rat, life beyond workouts can be socially challenging.
What makes Teddy Bear special is its shy central character. His size alone speaks volumes, even if he himself does not. This is one of those rare films that tells a story by letting the camera relax and observe. Like the development of the story, there is no rush to cut quickly between scenes, or break into MTV-style sequences. Awkward body language, and afflicted facial expressions can often tell us far more.
Need for love, and our sometimes desperate attempts to find it, even if it means testing the limits of our personal fears, is a core theme. There might be at least one or two predictable turns in this story, yet the director’s thoughtful approach to capturing a lonely man’s journey is endearing.
It’s films like Teddy Bear that remind me why independent film (the ones without the Hollywood A-list talent) can be so enjoyable. Strong and understated performances by Kim Kold and Elsebeth Steentoft anchor the production. It’s gentle, not fierce – though love at times can come unhinged.
3.5 out of 5 stars (Sweet Stuff)
Directed by Mads Matthiesen
Starring Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft
Denmark, 93 minutes
Sundance Film Festival, World Dramatic Competition
Sundance Film Festival Screenings:
Sunday, January 22, 2:30 pm, Prospector Square Theatre, Park City
Monday, January 23, 9:30 pm, Holiday Village Cinema 2, Park City (Press & Industry)
Tuesday, January 24, 10:00 pm, Redstone Cinema 7, Park City
Thursday, January 26, 5:30 pm, Prospector Square Theatre, Park City
Friday, January 27, 9:00 am, Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City