Teddy Bear Reviews
The story begins in Copenhagen where Dennis and his mother attend a family wedding. The groom is Dennis's uncle, the bride a woman he found in Thailand. Due to his mother, Dennis has never had a girflriend, and the wedding sparks in him a plan. He tells his mother he's going to a weightlifting competition in Germany, but in fact he reserves a flight ticket to Pattaya.
Having lived an overprotected life, the wild night life of a metropolis shocks Dennis, and soon he finds that a nocturnal world of sex workers and women desperate for a chance for a better life is far from offering the companionship he desires. Giving up, he does what he always does; buys a gym membership and starts lifting. The owner of the gym, a strong independant woman named Toi, takes genuine interest in Dennis. What ensues is an awkward beginning of a relationship between people from different worlds, one still completely innocent and timid.
"Teddy Bear" sounds like a cute romantic movie, but Matthiesen realizes his admittably endearing story through contemplative realism that relies on plausible psychological drama. The stifling relationship between Dennis and his mother is explored in strong, hopeless scenes where both actors shine. Elsebeth Steentoft is amazing in her portrayal of Dennis's mother Ingrid. She projects deep vulnerability and needy, yet cold dominance in a chilling manner.
Then there are the themes of sex tourism and more broadly the phenomena associated with the economical neoimperialism that has its grip on the poor of Thailand and other places. The Pattayan night flashes beautifully in a rainbow of colors, but just underneath the flashy facade looms a mix of desperation, hope and determination; the reality of a place relying on prostitution as a means of income that represents a means of escape to a better world. The film doesn't condescend or needlessly victimize, but it points out the moral ambiquities that run the economy in many places around the globe.
"Teddy Bear" is a fine example of a potentially unremarkable story that has been gardened into relevant social commentary and truly touching, analytical and thought-provoking drama. The film gets intimate with its characters and evolves through scenes that are immersed in melancholy. Yet the overall tone is hopeful and deeply human.
The character interactions are visceral. The story is unique and captivating. The story line takes a slow and purposeful pace.