Starring Tatiana Maslany. Rated 14A
With all that acclaim from 2012’s Rebelle at his back, Quebec filmmaker Kim Nguyen is right on schedule with this endearingly bonkers indulgence. Two Lovers and a Bear is preposterous and too infatuated with itself, but between its appealing leads and a surplus of other pleasures—the super-crisp imagining of the Nunavut community of Apex, for one—it’s also pretty hard to resist.
The film begins with Tatiana Maslany’s Lucy telling her lover Roman (Dane DeHaan) that she’s been accepted into a university down south. His reaction is to go on a self-destructive bender that rockets from zero to insane within seconds, but even then we’re unprepared for a blunt left turn into magical realism when it’s revealed that Roman routinely discusses personal matters with a polar bear voiced by Gordon Pinsent—and not just when he’s hammered. Gordon the bear shows up at other key moments, so get used to it.
Whatever’s going on here, Nguyen adopts a hyperreal style and lays some vivid physical peril on his lovers after they elect to trek south, notably in a sequence that has Roman trapped in a crevice with his snowmobile threatening to crush his pretty head. It’s only 50 miles outside their “kingdom”, as the bear puts it, that our lovers find an abandoned military base, possibly left over from John Carpenter’s The Thing, and we discover what it is that both bonds and dooms these two.
Maslany in particular gets to light some of her impressive thespie fireworks, while Nguyen’s strategy is to continually sideswipe the viewer with outlandish plot developments and epically strange imagery. A suitably haunting soundtrack by Vancouver’s Jesse Zubot includes some of his work with Tanya Tagaq, which couldn’t be more apt here, especially if Nguyen is aiming for that plum market situated between swoony adolescent girls and middle-aged chaos magicians.