Despite some evidence to the contrary, the titular Two Lovers and a Bear instead refers to the start of a joke that is being recited by Lucy (Tatiana Maslany), “Two Lovers and a Bear walk into a bar.” This opening line also obviously refers to the fact that in this film, Lucy and Roman (Dane DeHaan) are a pair of (possibly estranged) lovers, (they alternate between having shared and extremely intimate encounters, and yet also very much wanting to fight with each other and often doing so). Oh yes, the film does in fact a bear, a talking bear, one voiced by the great Gordon Pinsent, (he is a polar bear, as the film is set in the Arctic). So while the film may seem to be entirely on the surface, the subtext goes extremely deep under the ground.
A surprising detail of Kim Nguyen’s film is that Maslany and DeHaan feel so well paired, sharing a deep amount of chemistry with each other. Their story is what makes the film shine, and repeated interludes into magical realism detract from a stellar story about the potential undoing of a powerful relationship. The story is almost too open-ended, offering a number of ways in which the events could have been received, with each viewer offering a different interpretation and, one receives the impression, so too do the particulars as well.
The experience is very much one that is rooted in the vestiges of memory, as there is gripping sense of trauma at play here, especially for Maslany’s character Lucy. The actress rises to the occasion and spotlights a side of her with which we may not be familiar. The film itself perhaps could have used one final inclusive moment of perfect reveal that suggests what ultimately transpired, or it threatens to turn into a guessing game. Maybe this is part of the cosmic joke, but it may leave a few less than intrepid watchers of film feeling a little bit cold.