Sundance 2012: Teddy Bear

Based on the short film Dennis, Teddy Bear  further explores the story of Dennis (Kim Kold), a body builder who, despite a large frame that can make him seem intimidating, is actually quite shy and has trouble making conversation, especially with women. Teddy Bear opens with Dennis with an attractive young woman on a date that is not going very well. Dennis seems incredibly nervous and the conversation keeps stalling out. But Dennis, despite being thirty-eight, does not return home to life as a solitary bachelor, he is greeted by his mother (Elsebeth Steentoft) – who he still lives with.

Rather than tell her about his date, Dennis lies and says he was out with a friend. It starts to become clear that there is a reason Dennis keeps his dating life a secret from his mother, who only seems calm or happy when Dennis is at home with her. The two are unquestionably close but their relationship seems to be a bit too close with his mother freely coming into the bathroom while Dennis is showering and constantly needing to know where Dennis is and who he is with.

After celebrating his uncle’s marriage to his wife (who he met in Thailand), Dennis decides to take a cue from his uncle’s happiness and travel to Thailand himself to see if he has similar luck, having been told women are easier to meet there. Dennis quickly learns how true this is when simply walking down the street has droves of women literally pawing at him to get his attention. But this is not the kind of attention Dennis wants, he is looking for love and a real relationship.

The women he is set up with by his uncle’s friend are only interested in seeing Dennis’ muscles instead of getting to know him. Frustrated, Dennis finds a local gym and when his reputation precedes him, a fellow bodybuilder (and admirer) decides to take him under his wing and invite him out for a real meal and real conversation with his friends. The woman who owns the gym, Toi (Lamaiporn Hougaard), is also at the dinner and in this more natural environment, the two strike up a real conversation and connection.

Having originally lied to his mother about his trip (claiming to have gone to Germany for a body building competition), Dennis decides to come clean about his relationship with Toi and his mother does not take the news well. After telling Dennis he must choose between her and Toi, Dennis, the ever faithful son, finds himself at a pivotal crossroad in his life, forced to choose between two women who each make him happy in very different ways.

The Upside: A heartfelt story about the painful process of growing up (no matter what your age) and having to eventually live life for yourself. Kold (a real life body builder) plays the part with a quiet sincerity and charm that truly makes Dennis feel like a big teddy bear you want to root for.

The Downside: The methodical nature of the film made certain scenes feel tedious (we don’t need to see Dennis repeatedly walking through the streets of Thailand or getting set up on another failed date) and this slow burn could bore some viewers.

On the Side: One question that stayed with me was how Dennis’ uncle was set up with a woman who became his wife and the man Dennis was told to seek out for the same seemed to only set him up with “women of the night” who had no interest in a long term relationship.

Click here for more from Sundance 2012


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