In Teddy Bear, a mother’s love knows no bounds, as 38 year old bodybuilder Dennis knows firsthand. Whether it be because of his crippling shyness, or his guilt over not abandoning his mother like his father once did, Dennis still lives with his mother; and he lets her treat him like he’s still a child. When he goes out on a date (that fails miserably), he arrives back at home and tells his mother that he was at the movies with a friend. He doesn’t want her to know that he’s been dating.
Dennis and his mother attend the wedding celebration of his cousin, a small, awkward, unattractive man who has just married a woman that he met in Thailand. He tells Dennis that the women there are easier to talk to, and it’s easier for a man to find the woman that he has been waiting for. Dennis tells his mother he is leaving for a bodybuilding competition in Germany, and instead plans a trip to Thailand to meet with the man that his cousin says introduced him to his new wife.
When Dennis arrives in Thailand, he discovers that his cousin was possibly referring to a different type of woman than what Dennis is looking for. As he walks down the street, he has to swat the women off of him; they beckon from just outside their strip clubs and whorehouses. Dennis meets with the man who set his cousin up with his wife, and is set up with a prostitute. Dennis takes her back to his hotel room, but is so uncomfortable that he asks the woman to leave.
Frustrated, Dennis goes to a local gym for solace and he finds that he’s somewhat of a local celebrity there. He is invited to dinner with the people at the gym, and takes an immediate liking to Toi, the gym’s widowed owner. He feels comfortable around Toi; so comfortable in fact, that when invited back to her apartment, the two of them simply sleep in the same bed together fully clothed.
His problems really come to a head when he goes back home and confesses to his mother the real reason for his trip. Dennis plans for Toi to come live with him, so he goes out and gets an apartment – just for Toi. He’s still conflicted over whether or not he should tell his mother that he has a girlfriend. When she discovers this, his mother tears apart his room and calls him a disgrace. This finally gives him the courage to move out and be with Toi.
The film is more a character study than anything else. It moves at a snail’s pace at times, but real life Danish bodybuilder Kim Kold gives a performance that’s incredibly real and raw. His Dennis shows minimal emotion, likely from a history of being at his mother’s mercy, but at the same time it’s very clear that he cares deeply for her and doesn’t want to see her upset. When he falls for Toi, he obviously feels something for her, but has no idea how to show her. He truly is a big, muscly teddy bear.
Established Danish actress Elsebeth Steentoft (from the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film In A Better World) plays Dennis’s mother very well, embodying every overprotective mother that ever existed. She is short and small, yet her icy stares and biting words speak volumes. She chooses her words carefully to ensure maximum sting, and she knows exactly which buttons to push. She is villianous and yet begs for compassion. We never find out the hurt that was caused by her husband, but it was damaging enough for her to carry that hurt for decades, acting it out on her grown son.
Even though he is built like a Mack truck, Dennis is still a mama’s boy at heart. Teddy Bear is a film that will likely hit home in one way or another, as it deals with loneliness, guilt, self-imposed isolation, social awkwardness, and overbearing parents. Those willing to step out of their mainstream blockbuster comfort zone will find this film to be well acted and endearing, if at times tedious.
In Danish with English subtitles.
Director: Mads Matthiesen
Notable Cast: Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft, Lamaiporn Hougaard, Allan Mogensen
Writer(s): Mads Matthiesen