By Louis Baxter.
From my limited and probably uninformed experience, the two most common types of short film are as follows. There’s the high concept, which will be something like ‘Superman but as a Dog’ which will get the best out of a simple set-up, and blessed with a shorter running time and thus no requirement for filler to pad that high concept, they get out of dodge before the idea runs out of steam. The second kind is the ‘sucker punch’ which is built entirely around a Gotcha moment near the end. I think it’s perhaps because a short film can’t compete with the fully grown film for resonance or complexity, but what it can be is the purest and simplest version of something. Unrequired by its running time to embellish or expand.
Bear, directed and starring Nash Edgerton, falls squarely into the 2nd category, as Edgerton attempts to pull an elaborate stunt for his girlfriend (played by the newly minted star of Warm Bodies, Teresa Palmer, I believe.) and somewhat inevitably, things don’t go exactly according to plan. Bear is very well directed, Edgerton doing well to let things open in a relatively low key manner, not telegraphing any intentions or tones with overkill in style or exposition. Having the confidence in the strength of the 3rd act reversal and gets the most out of it by almost building slowly instead of rolling out at a break neck pace.
That moment itself, which obviously I can’t spoil because to do so would be to negate the film’s impact and remove any need for you to watch it, thus failing in the customer service element of writing this review, but within the cage of enormous vagueness I thought it worked very well. I was caught off guard and it worked nicely as a tone-shift too. Bear is a black comedy at heart, and I think it’s a genre that works very well in short form, because you can laugh at the horrible misfortune of characters without being too attached to them or considering the plausibility for too long.
That said, I found the last minute or so to be a little too ridiculous, even for the kind of film this is. And the final moment, designed as a shock upon the shock, fell a bit flat for me. Perhaps because it was too obviously telegraphed in a way that the first twist was not. And while I have nothing but praise for Edgerton’s directing capabalities given the strong sense of pace and control Bear has, I think his acting is a little lax when the moment requires him to nail it. Big time movie star Palmer fares a little better, conveying both the horror and exasperation she feels towards her idiot boyfriend pretty well.
Reviewing a film this short is going to be fairly similar to reviewing an advert, because and with so little time to build character or a world, it essentially comes down to did you did or did you didn’t like the punch. In this case, I did, it gave me a legitimate ‘ I didn’t see that coming’ moment, upon the fact that it was coolly put together and even pulls of a very impressive stunt. Not one I’ll remember for the rest of my days for sure, but an amusing distraction, which is exactly what I think it was designed to be.
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