Film Movement // 2013 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // January 31st, 2013
You can't judge a book by its big brawny cover.
I love the Scandinavian countries, the only place in the world I'd rather live other than the USA. This chocolate brown girl would stand out like a black bean in a pot of white rice -- but I wouldn't care, it seems like beautiful country full of wonderful people. In the Danish film Teddy Bear, Kim Kolds warms my heart with his portrayal of bulky muscle man Dennis. That along ith Martin Zandvliet's screenplay and Mads Matthiesen's direction creates a film that is both beautiful and touching.
Dennis (Kim Kold) is a 38-year-old bodybuilder/security guard who still lives at home with his mom, Ingrid (Elsebeth Steentoft). Dennis is lonely and would love to find a nice young woman with whom to spend his life. This is hard to do with a needy mom who treats him simultaneously like a surrogate husband and a little boy, and demands that he spend every waking hour in her company. When Dennis' uncle (Allen Mogensen) comes back from a trip to Thailand with a beautiful new wife, Dennis asks for help in finding a wife of his own. But the matchmaker sets up Dennis with women more interested in his muscles than who he is underneath. Just when he thinks the trip is a total bust, he meets Toi (Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard -- now that's a mouthful), the owner of a local gym. Their love begins to blossom, and Dennis must find the courage to leave his life with mom behind, and begin a new one with Toi.
Looking at Kim Kold's muscular frame and knowing that he is a former professional body builder, one can't help but make the inevitable comparisons to Arnold Schwarzenneger -- however, the physical attributes are where the comparisons end. While Arnold's acting abilities are virtually nil, Kold has a nuanced style that surpasses The Terminator by leaps and bounds. In Teddy Bear Kold is both vulnerable and lovable; he knows he must strike out and live his own life, but is cowed by an emotionally manipulative mother.
Director Mads Matthiesen and writer Martin Zandvliet have written a love story intertwined in an unconventional triangle of sorts between Dennis, his mother Ingrid, and Toi. Ingrid refuses to let Dennis grow up, while Toi sees him as a man who simply wants to love and be loved. Ingrid's unhealthy attachment to her son creates a tension between the two that is palpable, yet understated. We see Dennis' disappointments in subtle looks, or in the slumping of his massive shoulders. His expressions say one thing while his mouth says another, in order to please a mother who withholds love and affection if she doesn't get what she wants. This is the first film role for Hougaard, who plays Toi; she has a natural onscreen presence and a comfortable style that seems effortless. Steentoft is an acclaimed Danish actress, and fabulous as Ingrid. She is more than just some shrewish, overbearing mother; fear causes her to cling to Dennis, because he is all that she has.
Matthiesen and Zandvliet have created fully formed characters, who act and feel like real people. When watching some of the scenes, I felt as if I were a fly on the wall hearing some very private conversations I had no business listening to. Teddy Bear moves along at a leisurely pace, taking its time to develop, which allows us to get know the ins and outs of who these characters truly are.
Teddy Bear is a fine 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, with crisp clear images of two beautiful countries: Denmark and Thailand. Matthiesen does an interesting thing with the Dolby 5.1 audio; when the film is in his native Denmark, subtitles are used, but when the setting moves to Thailand, English is spoken. It is a seamless transition that never takes you out of the film. Extras include two small shorts by director Mads Matthiesen; "Cathrine" and "Dennis," starring Kold in his first acting role, in the original short that Teddy Bear is based on.
In Teddy Bear, Mads Matthiesen skillfully weaves a wonderful film about love and letting go. However, at its heart it is the story of a man finally growing into his own.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Film Movement
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Danish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
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