Snow Crossed Lovers (Film Review: “Two Lovers and a Bear”)

You can run to the ends of the earth but your personal demons will follow, even on fields of ice. An Arctic amour fou that drills deep below the frozen surface to the turbulent tides beneath.



SnapShot Plot

In the sensual and sometimes surrealistic film, Two Lovers and a Bear, Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) and Dane DeHaan (In Treatment; Life) give the kind of visceral, bare-boned performances that don’t come around too often and when they do, it’s worth noting. They play Lucy and Roman, two troubled souls whose sad personal histories play out against a vast wilderness backdrop, a remote arctic world to which they’ve both gravitated to run away from their pasts. Seeming to flourish in the tiny Inuit village they inhabit (which ironically seems more like any small town anywhere, sans the brutal climate), they are nonetheless each haunted by memories, dreams and apparitions which persist in torturing them. When a development occurs in which Roman fears he may lose Lucy forever, he reluctantly agrees to accompany her on a perilous journey across the snow ‘to the South’ and the Sun, where they vow to start anew. What begins as an exhilarating, rapturous adventure soon becomes a kind of Conrad-esque Heart of Darkness in which their stamina, devotion and utter survival are put to the test.



Parting Shot

Written and directed by Academy Award Nominee (War Witch) and Montreal native, Kim Nguyen, the film was shot on location in Iqaluit and Nunavut, located in Canada’s far northern territory, in unremittingly harsh climates and conditions. With temperatures often plunging to 50 degrees below zero with high winds, there were scenes that had to be shot in less than a minute for risk of frostbite to cast and crew. In fact, Nguyen has spoken of his first assistant cameraman who, because he had to frequently remove his gloves to remove the lenses, received wounds on his fingertips where his skin literally froze to the metal around the glass.

In a script which required so much physical action, Two Lovers and a Bear was well served by its two leads, Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan. In her starring role on the mind-bending clone series, Orphan Black, Maslany has proven herself adept at not only accents but a fierce physicality that, here, translates perfectly to the arctic wilderness. And her capacity for emotional as well as physical intimacy is just astounding. Together with DeHaan’s raw emotionalism (at times reminding me of a young DiCaprio), the chemistry between these two is breathtaking and utterly believable.

There are other moments in Two Lovers and a Bear in which Nature and Wildlife take on strange and mysterious properties, and it speaks to the confidence and sure-handedness of Nguyen that these scenes are folded into the fabric of the film as naturally and seamlessly as a passing ice floe or a crevasse that suddenly, silently swallows a snowmobile. It just happens.

Two Lovers and a Bear is presently streaming on Netflix.

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