Bear Cub


There is something about the way that Europeans handle films dealing with homosexuality that makes them a lot more meaningful. They just seem a lot more mature than some of their American counterparts. Many domestic films seem at a 'lower' stage, where the brunt of the film focuses on discrimination and struggles for equality. While these are valid stories, a lot of them come off as whiny. However, recent films like My Mother Likes Women and now Bear Cub go beyond this stage. They look at how gays and lesbians deal with the same problems that everybody else deals with. Their sexuality is a part of who they are, and not a chip on their shoulder. Wishful thinking? Maybe.

"Bear" is slang for a large hairy gay man, so it's pretty obvious what Bear Cub is about. Pedro (Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Everything in Place) is a relatively promiscuous bear, who is also a dentist. He goes out every night and has fun with his friends, and basically is living his life to the fullest. That changes once his nephew Bernardo (David Castillo) comes to stay for two weeks while his mother Violeta (Elvira Lindo, No Shame, Ten Days Without Love) goes on a trip to India. Pedro likes his nephew, but does not like the intrusion. He cannot hang out with his friends, and now, essentially has to baby-sit. Bernardo wants to be with his mom. Things do not go as planned when Violeta is found with drugs, and thrown in jail. The legal system in India is much more archaic, and it could take years for her to go to trial.

The strength of Bear Cub lies in its screenplay, written by director Luis Miguel Albaladejo (Rancour, Ten Days Without Love) and Salvador Garcia Ruiz (Voices in the Night, The Other Side). They take many melodramatic elements and make them touching and believable. In fact, there is little in the story that is new, everything has been done before and the plot is pretty predictable, but the interaction between Pedro and Bernardo, and their growing familial bond is handled deftly. Pedro realizes that he needs to grow up, and quickly. He quickly ditches many of the more risque elements of his older life, and slowly transitions to fatherhood. This means staying away from old friends and lovers, and focusing completely on Bernardo. It's a large sacrifice, and one that Pedro makes quickly and willingly.

Violeta's mother-in-law Teresa (Empar Ferrer, Voices in the Night, Nobody's Life) arrives. She was not on good terms with Violeta, who kept Bernardo from seeing her. She wants to get to know Bernardo, but he wants no part of this. Pedro is trying to moderate. He wants the best for Bernardo, whatever that may be. He feels that Bernardo should have some sort of relationship with his grandmother. When Pedro's friends say that they think Bernardo is gay, Pedro chastises them, saying that Bernardo should just worry about being a kid. It is a nuanced, rich performance from Garcia Lopez, and shows a lot more tenderness than is usually seen in men in film. There is real emotion in the scenes between him and Castillo. Anybody watching can probably guess how events will turn out, especially if they think real hard. Bear Cub treads no new ground in terms of narrative; it is just a nice family (melo)drama.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 39 minutes, Spanish, French, and English with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains nudity, language, sexuality, and some drug use, an easy R.

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