"Teddy Bear." Directed by Mads Matthiesen
One night in Bangkok, while doing advance “research” for this review, I saw an elephant in the street in the Patpong district, the heart of Thailand’s sex tourism industry. As the elephants I had seen previously outside of circuses could be counted on the fingers of one hoof, I was quite impressed.
I don’t think I’ll remember “Teddy Bear” as long or as vividly.
Mads Matthiesen’s Danish drama is so histrionically minimalist the audience has to bring their own emotions to it. That doesn’t mean the acting is bad, just impossibly low-key.
Dennis (Kim Kold, who could play the Hulk without padding) is a 38-year-old professional bodybuilder who lives in his mother’s (Elsebeth Steentoft) house and under her thumb. Afraid of losing him, she keeps him on a short leash. When he goes on a date he has to lie to her about where he’s been, but he’s so socially inept his dates never lead anywhere.
Then Dennis’ uncle returns from Thailand with a bride and suggests Dennis might also find Thai women easier to relate to. Although the trip begins badly (even apart from some common Thai scams the film warns potential tourists about), Dennis being too much of a romantic to get involved with sex workers, he finally finds a woman he can be interested in, Toi (Lamaiporn Hougaard), a widow whose husband left her a gym to run.
The third act takes place after Dennis returns to Denmark. It’s essentially a tug-of-war between Toi and Dennis’ mother, although Toi is unaware of it until the fight is nearly over.
The scenic aspect of “Teddy Bear” is confusing because Dennis flies into Bangkok but spends most of his stay in the beach resort of Pattaya. This won’t matter to viewers inspired to visit Thailand for the wrong reasons.
SFF screenings: Sun, Apr 15, 2:15 PM; Mon, Apr 16, 3:45 PM