Black Bear is a 2020 American drama thriller film written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine. It stars Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, Paola Lázaro and Grantham Coleman.
A young woman, Allison (Aubrey Plaza), sits on a dock at the edge of a foggy lake. She then retreats to a cabin and sits in a room where she looks at a notepad.
The film then moves to Part One: The Bear in the Road. At a remote lake house in the Adirondack Mountains, Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Sarah Gadon) entertain film director Allison, an out-of-town guest and former actress looking for inspiration. Gabe’s interest in her quickly becomes obvious, as does his unhappy relationship with his pregnant partner Blair. Blair and Gabe constantly bicker in front of an uncomfortable Allison, with Blair targeting Gabe’s lackluster musical career and Gabe criticizing Blair’s drinking habits. Allison becomes a part of these arguments, shifting between siding with Blair and Gabe and causing them to become even more aggressive to each other. When Gabe rants against the failings of modern society, Blair becomes upset and threatens to leave after Allison jokingly sides with Gabe’s criticism of feminism. Allison awkwardly leaves as Blair and Gabe retreat to their bedroom; Blair accuses Gabe of being sexually attracted to Allison, but then they make up. After Blair falls asleep, Gabe meets Allison for a swim at the lake. Afterwards the two talk, and Gabe admits that the pregnancy with Blair had been an accident. In turn, Allison admits that she had lied about many things she had told him and Blair for no reason. They kiss and begin to have sex, but Blair interrupts them, attacks Gabe, and orders Allison to leave. She and Gabe argue violently until Gabe shoves her against a couch. Realizing that Blair is bleeding, Gabe orders Allison to get their car and drive them to the hospital. As she is driving, Allison is startled by a black bear in the road and swerves, crashing into a tree.
The film switches to Part Two: The Bear by the Boat House, seemingly revealing that the events up to this point have been part of a film shoot. Gabe is the director and Allison and Blair are actresses, though their roles in the production are switched, with Allison the scorned wife and Blair the interloper. Gabe and Allison have been married for years, but he is obviously rude and abrasive to her on set and favors Blair, which makes the crew uncomfortable. Gabe continually makes Allison upset by making her believe that he and Blair are having an affair, which they actually are doing in order to make Allison’s acting feel more real and intense. However, they go too far and Allison begins drinking heavily, disappearing from the production and requiring the crew to bring her back. When Allison returns drunk to the set, Gabe notices and quietly chastises her in front of the crew, blaming her for demanding to be the lead actress. After repeated failed takes and arguments during the film’s climactic argument scene, Allison eventually nails her part but begins fighting and hitting Blair for real. Gabe is delighted by the results, but Allison, still upset, retreats to a room and refuses to come out despite Gabe’s annoyance and her friends’ support. She orders a cameraman, Baako, to see her; when he arrives, she makes out with him and pleads to him to lie to her that he loves her. After she returns to the set, the scene is reshot, and Gabe asks Allison to not hit Blair. The scene plays out as intended, but Allison has a genuine, uncontrollable breakdown as she yells at “her husband” that he was supposed to love her, not “Blair.” She continues sobbing even after the cameras are off. Gabe consoles her as the uncomfortable crew looks on.
Afterwards, Gabe takes her away to comfort her as the rest of the crew celebrates with a wrap party. Allison tells him that he should love Blair because she is better than her, and that she wishes that they could go back to the way things were before they were famous; she also calls him “Bear.” Gabe assures her that there had been no affair with Blair, and that things will be different in the future. After she falls asleep, he leaves to be with Blair, and it is clear that the affair is indeed real and active. Allison wakes up alone and tries to find Gabe in a panic, eventually returning to the lake house and having a frightening encounter with a black bear on the way there. Witnessing Gabe and Blair having sex through a window, she becomes distraught as the bear appears behind her. She turns and appears to walk calmly toward it.
The film cuts back to the opening scene, with Allison alone looking at the foggy lake. She returns to the cabin to write, but this time she is seen writing “Black Bear” on the notepad before looking at the viewer.
Aubrey Plaza as Allison
Sarah Gadon as Blair
Christopher Abbott as Gabe
Lindsay Burdge as Maude
Alexander Koch as Mike
Jennifer Kim as Nora
Shannon O’Neill as Simone
Grantham Coleman as Baako
Paola Lázaro as Cahya
Lou Gonzalez as Chris
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