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MARIA DUARTE recommends a visually stunning film exploring role reversal and rivalry between two actors and one director

Black Bear (15)
Directed by Lawrence Michael Levine


ACTOR-TURNED-DIRECTOR Lawrence Michael Levine takes a deep and fascinating dive into the creative process of writing and filmmaking in this bizarre, dreamlike drama which fuses realism with surrealism.

Set against the backdrop of a gorgeous lake house, with arresting and haunting views of the waterfront, the film is told in two parts.

In the first part (another) actor-turned-director Allison (Aubrey Plaza) comes to stay at the rural retreat to work on her writer’s block.

However, she plays a divisive role by causing friction and sexual tension between the home’s owners — struggling musician Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and his pregnant girlfriend Blair (Sarah Gadon).

In the second half the same characters appear in reversed roles — in a film shoot directed by Gabe, whose other half Allison is playing the lead opposite Blair.

Instead of being the home wrecker, Allison’s home is now being destroyed by Blair, while Gabe plays mind games to get the best performance out of his leading lady. There is no sense of time or place but it feels like you are watching a dream anchored by a recurring, stunning shot of Plaza in a bright red swimming costume, sat on a white towel on grey decking looking out over an eerie, mist-covered lake.

More than just an exercise in navel-gazing, Levine attempts to take stereotypes and subvert them as the characters confront their inner demons; at times it does seem like you are viewing a technical masterclass in filmmaking, especially in the second half, driven by superlative performances from an outstanding cast. Plaza is totally mesmerising as she showcases her extraordinary talent and ability in two polar-opposite roles.

Though the second half appears a little self-indulgent — focusing on the mechanics, pressures and dramas on set — this film needs to be seen just for Plaza alone.

Available on demand


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