Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Joseph Walsh

First things first. Vic and Flo don’t see a bear. But that isn’t the main problem with this Canadian feature, directed by former critic-turned-filmmaker Denis Côté.

This is a perplexing, doomed love story between two butch lesbian ex-cons who retreat to a cabin owned by Vic’s (Pierrette Robitaille) morbidly ill, surreally silent uncle (Georges Molnar). Vic slowly adjusts to her new life outside the clink, proving to be a snarky, bitter yet vulnerable type of gal. It’s a sparse cast with only a handful of characters interacting with the checkered shirt lovers. The spiky Flo (Romane Bohringer) arrives at the remote cabin a little after Vic’s release, scaring off the neighbors and former carers of the bushy, bearded uncle in the process. Then we get Guillaume (Marc-Andre Grondin), a gay parole officer who as part of his job of rehabilitating Vic decides to take them to look at old trains – why? Well we don’t really know, and seemingly neither do the cast. Then lastly we have the sour-faced, Marina St.-Jean (Marie Brassard), spookily appearing on Vic’s land, offering gardening advice, like you do.

Vic and Flo are far from a stable couple, bonding only in their mutual hatred of society’s demands over how they should behave (maybe the director thinks staring at trains is normal behavior). Flo casually sneaks off to town to get jiggy with a strangely silent black beefcake, played by a shaven headed Ted Pluviose – again we don’t know why she feels motivated to do this. Vic’s insecurities generate the faintest whisper of drama suggesting a ‘will-they-won’t-they be together by the end of the movie’ element. You think you’re in for an original LGBT drama about a couple adjusting to life outside prison, but we aren’t – more’s the pity. We never really care for the outcome of the couple, as individuals or together. Instead we remain detached throughout, the only character of interest being Guillaume, whose story would have made a much more interesting film.

We do get a relationship drama for a bit, shifting into a weak, underplayed thriller/horror involving Flo’s old cellmate, but it has no real drive and leads to a brutal then wetly ethereal conclusion. What Flo has done to generate such an extreme response is never explained, nor what they went to prison for or how they met. Côté seems happy to allow the characters to remain detached, dropping us in the plot and hoping we will sink or swim (personally I’d rather drown). That in itself wouldn’t be a problem if we could invest in the characters for just one moment, but we are never given the chance.

The only thing that keeps us watching is the drip, drip, drip of miniscule amounts of vague information about what the hell is going on. Eventually you realize, actually, nothing is going on here. We never get any sense of satisfaction or reward for watching. Maybe if a bear had been spotted at some point, it would have been better, but I doubt it.

Follow Joseph on Twitter: @JosephDAWalsh   

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