Two Lovers and a Bear

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on November 23, 2016

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Dear Pierre L'Heureux
Head Snow Dresser

Dear Pierre,

Snow matters to Canadians. The volume, the consistency, the wetness, even the timing of it—these details actually affect our lives. So when we see that fake white fluff used by Hollywood, it’s an assault to the senses. If the environment rings false, it’s likely the emotions will, too. No such fears on the ultra-Canadian feature film Two Lovers and Bear, of course. In fact, the filmmakers went in the opposite direction; they shot primarily in Nunavut to create a chilling Northern experience that’s hard to shake. It actually feels like the most Canadian film ever. In all the good ways—and the bad.

Kim Nguyen’s follow-up to the haunting Rebelle sees the writer/director tracking the story of a pair of Southern transplants trying to make a life in Canada’s North. Their dislocation is thematically important, and re-enforced by the disparate surroundings of Iqaluit. Part sanctuary, part purgatory, the snow you surround them with is sometimes a barrier from the outside world, and, at others, a connective tissue that enables 360-degree travel through the environment. And it’s during this snowmobiling section that the story finds its strongest pulse, actually gaining momentum and resonance in the last act. Plus some frighteningly real consequences from the cold.

You’ve come a long way from The Day After Tomorrow, Pierre.

To be sure, your job here was certainly not just to run behind the actors to cover their tracks on re-takes. There is some subtle fantasy in the film (revolving around the titular Bear) that elevates the material without ever losing the story’s firm grounding. That’s a big credit to you and the effects team, who blend the real and the digital so seamlessly that it left me questioning what’s real and what’s not—and that perfectly reflects the experience of the characters in the film.

But this wouldn’t be such a quintessential Canadian film if there weren’t the usual steadfast hallmarks: a loser male protagonist, a road trip, weird sex, snow shoes, and a doomed (or at the very least sobering) finale. Only this time those familiar beats don’t feel as formulaic (as rejections of Hollywood formulas), and actually come together with grace. I felt inspired and attracted to their relationship, which is largely due to the compelling talents of Dane DeHaan and Canadian treasure Tatiana Maslany. Throw in the pitch-perfect addition of Gordon Pinset, and it’s hard to think of a more Canadian creation.

Other than snow, of course.



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