Black Bear trailer

Black Bear review: Aubrey Plaza is untethered and ferocious

A comedy-drama dunked in acid, the film allows the boundaries between life and art to melt in the most exquisitely torturous ways

Clarisse Loughrey@clarisselou
Friday 23 April 2021 06:32
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Dir: Lawrence Michael Levine. Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, Paola Lázaro, Grantham Coleman. 15, 105 mins

Black Bear opens on a woman in a red bathing suit. She’s sitting by the lake, her knees pulled up so tight that she resembles a lump of untouched clay. Her features lie perfectly still – it’s the face of Aubrey Plaza, an actor known for her unshakable deadpan. A moment passes. She gets up and heads inside the nearby cabin, placing herself down in front of a notebook and setting pen to paper. From this point on, Black Bear screams into life. A comedy-drama dunked in acid, it allows the boundaries between life and art to melt in the most exquisitely torturous ways.

A scene of sexual chaos plays out between three characters: Plaza’s Allison, Christopher Abbott’s Gabe, and Sarah Gadon’s Blair. Then the narrative resets. A few things are the same; much more has changed. At no point does writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine indicate what may be truth and what may be the story flowing from Allison’s pen. The effect is hypnotic – immersive to the point of claustrophobia. Early on, it’s clear that Allison is an impulsive storyteller, even when it’s merely spooling out inside her head.

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