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Black Bear Short Film Review

★★★★★ Stars

Directed by: #PeterPaton

Written by: #PeterPaton

A bear consumes this image as it stands with its mouth wide open in an intimidating stance. Within the bear is another photo containing a silhouette running along the street at dusk; the sky blue with shades of orange and pink infused within it.

Black Bear shows the reoccurring struggles that Riley (Andrew Joshi) faces after a traumatic event in his life. He becomes overwhelmed by all consuming obsessive impulses - labelled as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - following the incident; the impulses quickly becoming the only thing at the forefront of his mind. This is a short film that focuses on ‘love, hope and recovery’ as Riley explores ways to deal with said daily difficulties.

As a viewer with many obsessive traits, it was a wonderfully comforting feeling to see such battles being fought with compassion and togetherness. As well as this, OCD is surrounded by a lot of stigmatisation; it is rare in film to see a mental health struggle like OCD portrayed in a genuine way, a way that viewers who experience it can connect with. Obsessive impulses put individuals in an incredibly valuable state which is clearly presented in the film, and with that follows terrifying intrusive thoughts which are also beautifully approached within the plot.

This short uses a powerful script (written by Peter Paton) that is packed tight with hard-hitting analogies to carry the story. The writing perfectly presents how distressed someone dealing with OCD can become and the added analogies, the black bear analogy in particular: “…whatever you do, don't think about the black bear,” enables audiences from all walks of life to understand the struggles and place themselves into a first person perspective as Riley. I cannot speak highly enough on Paton’s writing. Although a script is the ‘centre piece’ of essentially any film, some scripts are still unable to carry the plot with vibrancy in the first instance but Paton’s writing talent does not disappoint; I am beyond impressed.

The performances given by each cast member are stunning as they colourfully transfer the script as an onscreen presentation. One specific aspect that is greatly admired by myself is the simple use of the eyes to portray emotion. When the camera is focused upon an actor’s facial expressions, their eyes are shining with true feeling. It is clear that the cast was able to deeply dive into the personalities of their character as they present authentic emotion even without having to speak in that moment. The excellent acting gifts the film with a natural, entirely human atmosphere.

Cinematography is one of my favourite parts of filmmaking in general and director of photography, Liam Gummer, made me jump with joy because of his superb work. The shots flow stupendously together, once again adding to the realistic and somewhat comforting element of the short’s ambience. The camerawork seen within the film also enhances the work of the actors, the camera being placed in areas that highlight the sublime emotions given by the cast. As the film progresses into a kinder image for the life of Riley, depicting him strengthening his mental health, some shots are repeated but with Riley now possessing a smile painted on his face. Viewers see Riley repeatedly locking the door of his home as his mental health has just braced a hugely negative impact, but soon they then see him widely grinning as he simply and singularly closes the door behind him. I completely adore these contrasting shots that show the character’s progress and success.

Black Bear deeply embeds a motivational meaning and passes it to its audience. It is a story that carries a large amount of inspiration and kind knowledge, especially for those who are struggling within their own life; I think a lot of the population currently is, even without other added difficulties such as OCD. This short film shows the world that, step by step, it is possible to regain a better grasp on your true self and live more freely with the support of loving individuals surrounding you; a message that all should place securely in their heart and mind as a reminder in dark times.



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