Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love.Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love.Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love.Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love.Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love.
I hope and wish on the brightest star I see tonight that Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear finds an audience not only in its home-country of Denmark, but in America, which is so accustomed to its spontaneous, mostly empty cinema that it's ridiculously easy and sickeningly common for small, human-driven pictures like this to go far below the radar. This is a stunning, poignant, masterful work involving immensely undiscovered talent, sensitive writing, smooth directing, and a storyline that is pure and viably sustainable when taken in the format presented.
Dennis is a thirty-eight year old bodybuilder, living with his controlling, domineering mother (Elsebeth Steentoft) who has kept him a shy, secluded introvert his entire life. Despite boasting a strong, incredibly toned exterior, his interior paints a feeble man three times smaller than him. He has never had a true relationship, and slogs through his days depressed and uninspired. His morose feelings only heighten upon visiting his uncle's wedding to a lovely Thai woman, and not long after, seeing his nephew so lonely and melancholy in live, encouraging Dennis to travel to Thailand to try and meet some women.
He lies and tells his mother that he will be competing in a bodybuilding competition in Germany, and then quickly boards a plane to Thailand. A close friend of his uncle's attempts to set him up with several different girls, but the fact they're all prostitutes unsettles Dennis and he becomes nervous and hasty around all of them. He finally meets a young, genial soul named Toi (Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard), who owns a gym, and he believes he has found the one he'd love to form a relationship with; now if only his mother will approve of it.
Dennis is played by former bodybuilder Kim Kold to a bold, graciously welcoming extent. His character greatly reminds me of myself in some ways; he hungers for the attention of the opposite sex, but is unsure of how to balance it and handle it all once obtaining it. He struggles to maintain a consistent conversation, is notably tense and socially inept during the simplest little get-together, and feels gridlocked to long pauses and dialog that lacks confidence. This is a negative affect of the heavy nurturing of his mother, who seems to keep him well-fed and unambitious in not his dreams but his social life.
The way writers Matthiesen and Martin Zandvliet handle this delicate material is astonishingly poetic and nuanced. They stray far, far away from shouting matches between Dennis and his mother about "taking care of me" and other mother-son issues, and fights between Dennis and Toi about "growing up." We see from our scenes with them together that Toi knows exactly what the deal is between Dennis and his mom and prefers not to further belittle him for the minor baggage. She'd much rather go the extra mile to make the relationship as a whole work well.
Teddy Bear is also photographed with that beautifully melodic foreign film sensitivity that combines minimalist cinematography and gorgeously showcased settings that add fuel to this as a visually compelling picture much less a narratively compelling one. But it's inexcusable to note the majority of the film's success comes from its leading man, Kold, who completely handles this role with the utmost capability and realism. He provides us with one of the finest performances of the year, and with one of the year's most likable protagonists as well.
Starring: Kim Kold, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, and Elsebeth Steentoft. Directed by: Mads Matthiesen.
- Dec 7, 2012