BLACK BEAR (2020) reviews of comedic psychological thriller

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Black Bear is a 2020 American comedic psychological thriller about a filmmaker who seeks solace from her tumultuous past at a rural retreat. Unfortunately, she discovers that the woods summon her inner demons in intense and surprising ways.

Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine (Always Shine), the movie stars Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, Aubrey Plaza and Paola Lázaro.


At a remote lake house in the Adirondack Mountains, a young couple entertains an out-of-town guest looking for inspiration in her filmmaking. The group quickly falls into a calculated game of desire, manipulation, and jealousy, unaware of how dangerously intertwined their lives will soon become…


Black Bear is one of those movies that probably plays even better on a second viewing when you already know where it’s headed and can therefore catch all the little signposts you don’t notice the first time. Regardless, an initial viewing offers strong performances, some dark humor, and plenty of insights into bad behavior. It’s a provocative, challenging work that shows the amazing Aubrey Plaza in a whole new light.” The Aisle Seat

“You’ll probably get a sense of what Black Bear is trying to do as the second part is playing but it keeps adding on until the finale. Elements mimic or mirror the first half, they recontextualize it, they make you wonder what’s real and what’s not—and what the film wants to say about them. And it all works! Black Bear is a delight.” Cine Marter

“It’s a riveting experimental conceit that’s well-written, smart and offers a witty, subliminal comical drama but no clear answers to the murky questions it raises about the creative process (at least that’s what I think this obtuse pic is about). To its credit, it’s never dull or without an artist’s viewpoint of madness being a necessity for genius.” Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews

“Maybe it’s a shrine to guys like Cassavetes, who once upon a time made unpleasant movies with a small and dedicated cast on a shoestring budget that still managed to have a certain spark of genius. They were effortless in a way that Black Bear seems full of effort. I have nothing against working for my art, mind. I just wish I thought there was something in it for me.” Film Freak Central

“I just adore this stylized, strange, and realized dark fantasy. It was painful to watch: disorienting, formidable–an almost sinister level of awesome. It is so good. Honestly, at least for now, I can’t see this weird, extremely dark, and occasionally playful meditation being anything other than perfect.” Film Snob Reviews

“Totally original and unbelievably intriguing, Black Bear never takes its eye away from the operating table – when the focus isn’t on the characters, the film takes aim at independent filmmaking and the cinema industry in general […] it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is a truly special film; certainly one of the most fascinating features in years.” Flickering Myth

“After settling into an intensely gripping character drama, we’re left to watch a rather run of the mill behind the scenes farce. While anyone who has ever worked on a film set in any capacity will chortle at some of the in-jokes, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen in the multitude of movies that have covered this topic, from The Bad and the Beautiful to Day for Night.” The Movie Waffler

“Maybe Levine is drawing a connection between creative genius and madness, in particular for those in romantic entanglements? Who knows? Black Bear is smart, maybe too smart, and such an emotionally-heightened mind trip you might feel right at home with the titular creature poking its nose where it doesn’t belong.” Punch Drunk Critics

“In a film that uses repetition and recurring motifs as a narrative device, Levine may be fully aware that we’ve seen this film before somewhere. It’s a hard feeling to shake by the time the credits roll, but the sense of mystery and fine performances manage to sustain momentum for most of the running time.” The Reel Bits

” …starts as a relatively straightforward (and yet still sharp) relationship dramedy with three strong personalities bouncing off each other at a remote lake house before becoming something even more challenging and thrilling. It’s a film that doesn’t just reinvent itself as much as deconstruct its entire existence in a way that’s breathtaking and wildly entertaining.”

Black Bear is a trip and designed for post-film conversation and theorizing. Although it leaves a slightly bad taste due to its depictions of gaslighting, Black Bear is thought-provoking days after viewing, and in the words of Aubrey Plaza “get ready, Black Bear is a nightmare of a film.” Screen Anarchy

Black Bear is a rollercoaster, one that will give you whiplash at how often things are changed up. As expected, Plaza shines when delivering her sarcastic comments. There are some genuinely funny moments throughout, delivered from her as well as the rest of the cast. However, Plaza must also be recognized for her fantastic ability to completely unravel in front of our eyes.” Screen Queens

“By the time that the film finishes, you’re going to need a few minutes or more to let it sink in.  There’s something here that writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine is looking to say about the art of filmmaking.  It’s just that he manages to deliver on that message with a bit of a thriller.” Solzy at the Movies

“The film being made in the second half isn’t what we saw in the first half, but it definitely rhymes. There aren’t any easy answers as to Allison’s role in the various stories, as she also exists beyond them in her framing scenes. But the tension and comedy work so effectively that it’s a pleasure just to keep puzzling over Black Bear long after it’s over.” Tilt


Black Bear premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. In the US, Momentum Pictures will release the film theatrically and on VOD on December 4th 2020.

Filming locations:

Long Lake, New York

Technical details:

104 minutes


YouTube reviews:

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