Film Movement Release
Unrated, 3 stars
In no way to be confused with Mark Wahlberg’s talking dirty, furry animated best friend in Ted, this similar boy toy nicknamed star of Teddy Bear is no less goofy, though on the grim side instead. A Danish drama about a dysfunctional, physically ferocious looking body builder doing battle with his inner wimp, Teddy Bear astonishingly mines subtle emotional delicacy from blunt psychological wounds, in a decidedly cinematic cuddle-free zone.
Real life Danish bodybuilder Kim Kold is Dennis, the Teddy Bear in question. A thirty-eight year old glum Copenhagen extreme introvert still living at home with his possessive petite mom Ingrid (Elsebeth Steentoft) when he’s not pumping up at the local gym, Dennis has recently been overcoming his chronic arrested development enough to awkwardly embark on a search for female companionship.
But better late than never dates with Danish women are inevitably a disappointment, mostly for them in any case, due to the humorless hunk’s passive, thwarted personality. So when Dennis attends the wedding of his geeky uncle who has apparently imported a glamorous, adoring young bride from Thailand half his age, the lonely gentle giant’s imagination is sparked to do the same.
The only problem is Mom. Whose own loneliness raising Dennis as a single mother all these years, has led to an unhealthy bond in the extreme where she is unable to tolerate sharing him with any other woman. So what else is Dennis to do, but pretend he’s off to a bodybuilder convention in Germany instead, though really sneaking off somewhat like a husband with infidelity on his mind, to score a potential spouse for himself in Thailand.
Not exactly a movie about lurid sex tourism in the Third World, though coming awfully close to it, Teddy Bear does risk credibility at times by conceiving of a protagonist so unfamiliar with the world around him, that he seems to hardly have a clue about the difference between hookers and potential housewives. Not that it matters much, the mountainously ripped recluse has deeply unresolved intimacy issues regarding either. That is, until a gracious and affectionate Thai widow befriends him, and patiently waits for him to respond in kind. Even if he insensitively conceals their relationship like a guilty schoolboy, when confronted by his mother in a seductive underwear corner of the local mall.
Written and directed by Mads Matthiesen, the Directing Award winner this year at Sundance evokes a rare, nearly wordless dramatic eloquence, however offbeat. And even if presenting a pathological family portrait bordering on, but never quite sinking into caricature.