Title: Teddy Bear
Director(s): Mads Matthiesen
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, how many other body-builder movie stars do you know of? You know, those guys who look massive with the only purpose of their exercise being to win prizes for looking massive? Perhaps it’s just hard for them to break from a routine that makes them happy. Or maybe it’s that they simply can’t function doing anything else. Well meet Kim Kold, the star of Teddy Bear, a film about a bodybuilder named Dennis who just wants to find love from someone who can get past his ‘big exterior’. The two ways he finds happiness are through exercising, and being with his mom (Elsebeth Steentoft). His mom however, is seemingly only happy when she’s with her son. This is the relationship that really works in this film because you see that Dennis wants nothing more than to just be happy with someone else, but his mother has major control issues, and makes him feel guilty when he tries to leave her.
The film centers around Dennis and his trip to Thailand in the hopes of finding true love. His uncle recently came back to their hometown of Denmark married to a girl he met there. Unfortunately, when Dennis tries to do the same, believing it would be much easier, it’s not very different than it was before. After lying to his mother and saying he’s going to Germany for a bodybuilding championship, he heads to Thailand and meets many prostitutes and other women who are merely infatuated with his physique. Going into a gym one day, he feels happy doing something he enjoys, but feels dismissive of the notion that he’ll find someone like he had thought. When he meets Toi, it’s different, but his inability to really let someone else into his life hinders the relationship. What Teddy Bear does best is focus on Dennis and how he copes with new situations. He’s extremely shy, and rightfully so because no woman really seems to ‘get’ him beyond his muscle-bound body.
It’s when Dennis tries to break the news of his relationship with his mom that Teddy Bear really begins to show its legs. The relationship between Dennis and his mom is very one-sided, with his mom having complete power over him (ironic, right?). Dennis never really has grown up, and it’s because of this that he is still so adamant on only doing what’s in his Mom’s best interest. There’s one specific scene where she tells him to break off the relationship that was so heartbreaking and cold that it was just hard to find sympathy for the mother. Fortunately, Dennis is a character that you really fight for, and you want him to live his life the way he wants to. He shouldn’t have to lie to his mother when he’s going out to see a girl, because that should make her proud, but instead she’s so self-centered that she coaxes him every time into doing what she wants. That is why this relationship is so powerful in this film. Though it seems on the surface that his relationship with Toi is the major thing to take from the film, it’s not until he escapes his mother that he’s able to find and love someone.
This movie really is helped by Kold’s great acting. It’s pretty much a lot of brooding and being awkward but he sells it so well, showcasing a smile whenever he needs to. And Steentoft’s performance as his mom is really good because she’s able to portray someone who has seemingly lost someone and is unwilling to let the only other person she loves slip away. Teddy Bear does have its slow moments, benefiting more from awkward scenarios than any real action. There’s some comedic parts in the film as well, but its more because of their awkward nature than anything else. The audience I was with really embodied what Dennis was trying to fight against, and that’s people who can’t get past his physique. Halfway through the film, a woman behind me said “He’s so big” as if it was revelation to her. But that only got me more engrossed into the character of Dennis, understanding his pain and truly grasping at how heartfelt this film truly is. Teddy Bear is a little slow, but it has such great character dynamics and excellent acting from Kim Kold that it definitely deserves to be seen if it ever gets a release on Video on Demand or home video.
Screening courtesy of the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival