Shot in Iqaluit, Nunavut, in the far north of Canada, the first scenes in Rebelle writer/director Kim Nguyen’s Two Lovers and a Bear might make you wonder why so many movies take place in make-believe worlds when real places are as stunning and strange as this one. We first see Lucy (Tatiana Maslany) and her boyfriend Roman (Dane DeHaan) riding their snowmobiles over the expanse of white (the striking cinematography is Nicolas Bolduc’s) to go ice-fishing. “You suck,” Lucy laughs, piling up fish while Roman catches none. Later, when we see Lucy in her taxi on the hard-packed snow that makes up the town’s roads, and Roman, blasé as he accompanies a long, slim, cardboard box marked “human remains” on a plane, the film suggests a less gimmicky update of TV’s Northern Exposure.
Instead, Lovers seems to posit that the treatment for someone who has attempted suicide is hot sex and a change of scenery: No one considers the (far less photogenic) option of psychotherapy. Maslany’s Lucy is lovely and compelling and has demons of her own, but the actress herself is white and plays a person of color (Lucy’s grandmother is Inuit) — something that, particularly after Aloha, casting directors should have learned not to do. And Nguyen’s script feels like it was written by a college undergrad with an undecided major: Reckless love, life and death, and a talking polar bear (voiced by Gordon Pinsent) are all given equal time but not a trajectory we can follow.
Two Lovers and a Bear
Written and directed by Kim Nguyen
Opens December 16, Village East Cinema