Title: Teddy Bear
Director: Mads Matthiesen
Cast: Kim Kold, David Winters, Elsebeth Steentoft and Lamaiporn Hougaard
Just saying the word “teddy bear” invokes ideas of something huggable, soft and snuggly (yes, I said “snuggly”). It’s hard to imagine this word when it is placed against a giant muscle bound bodybuilder, but after watching Mads Matthiesen’s “Teddy Bear,” it’s an apt comparison that not only pertains to the protagonist of this film but also the film itself. It also serves as a reminder not to judge a book by its cover.
“Teddy Bear” follows the story of Dennis, a 38 year old bodybuilder from Denmark, who longs for love while his overbearing mother keeps him on a short leash. When we first Dennis, he is on a date with a beautiful woman. Despite his large and impressive physique, he is extremely shy and awkward. The first thing that an audience will think of is why is this large man so meek? Then we meet his mother. Dennis still lives at home in his childhood bedroom, which is littered with trophies and medals from bodybuilding competitions. His mother is small but has a huge influence on Dennis’ entire life. You get the feeling that Dennis could’ve moved out a long time ago, but his demanding mother wouldn’t allow it.
Dennis sees his friends and family partner-up and get married, which makes him long for someone of his own. After attending his cousin’s wedding, Dennis asks him where he met his wife. Dennis’ cousin’s wife is from Thailand and he feels this is the best way for Dennis to meet his future wife. While in Thailand, Dennis gets the wrong idea about how love and sex work in a foreign land.
“Teddy Bear” successfully explores notions of the sex trade in Thailand, but does so in a very delicate and naive way. This is a reflection of Dennis’ persona. It’s not exploitative, which was refreshing to watch. There is a certain level of sincerity that goes along with Dennis and the film “Teddy Bear.” A sincerity that can be felt, seen and pressed upon while viewing the film. I was invigorated by how the filmmakers handled these themes while I feel most filmmakers would opt to be edgy or dark. There is a brightness to “Teddy Bear” that is true and lasting.
While in Thailand, Dennis falls in love with a woman. An owner of a local gym (go figure). He wants to bring her home to Denmark but is reluctant to have her meet his mother. With good reason as his mother devolves into childish actions to have Dennis all to her self.
The complexity and sweetness in “Teddy Bear” makes the film worth watching. There’s something very special about this film that is apparent to any one who sees it. “Teddy Bear” is an interesting character study on what is shown on the outside, usually isn’t reflective on the inside. A lesson we should all bear in mind.