Film Review: BearCity 3 at Iris Prize Festival

Bears do a lot of things in the woods.  Including great filmmaking.

BearCity 3 rounds out Douglas Langway’s bear trilogy with yet another enjoyable story.  In this latest instalment, the gang comes back together for a camping trip and a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  At the center of the plot we find Brent and Fred (Stephen Guarino and Brian Keane, respectively), who are preparing for the arrival of their first child.  A busy Momma Bear, Brent is frantically preparing the couple’s home for baby, whereas Fred is entirely consumed with the edit for his film – a project that has dragged on for far too long.  Aiming to wrap this up and refocus Fred’s attention, Brent pulls his Producer card and decides the film will premiere at the campgrounds.

BeatCity 3

Meanwhile, Roger (Gerald McCullouch) is recovering from the loss of his job and his lover.  Needing some fun in his life, he agrees to go out to the campsite, hoping he might have a chance to rekindle his relationship with Tyler (Joe Conti).  However, Tyler’s partner Jay (Tim Hooper) isn’t going to let that happen.

Across the city, we find the loveable Michael (Gregory Gunter), who is mourning the tragic death of his past lover as he builds a new relationship with Dalton (Garikayi Mutambirwa).  The wildcard in this deck, however, is Dalton’s daughter.  Emma (portrayed expertly by Lauryn Alisa McClain) is a tough teenager with a mastery of the cell phone and the cold shoulder.  Wanting to protect her father, she quickly hacks into Michael’s cloud to gather intel and question dad’s boyfriend on his past.

As each couple works through the challenges that face many romantic partnerships, we see each member of this sleuth of bears learn to define “family” in their own way.  Set against the beautiful metaphor of the forest, each of these men are forced to get back to the basics.  Each learns a valuable lesson about tearing down misconceptions, building relationships, rebuilding one’s self, and finding more than enough love in their hearts.

A grounding presence in the film, Fred’s sister Susan (Rachael Drummond) is equal parts voice of reason and comic relief.  As the surrogate for Brent and Fred’s baby, Susan frequently assures Brent that he’s ready to be a father, while reminding Fred that he can’t hide from fatherhood forever.  Families take work, as do relationships.

Working on their own challenges, Michael and Emma slowly begin to bond over the greatest thing they have in common: Dalton.  When a bear (of the ursine variety) crosses paths with Dalton, Emma, and Michael, it is Michael who commits a heroic act that saves the trio from tragedy, giving up a valuable symbol of his past in the process.  Emma recognizes this, and furthermore recognizes that a man like Michael only comes around once in a lifetime.

As the film reaches its conclusion we see the bond between lovers and friends stronger than it has ever been.  Even when an altercation between Jay and Roger nearly meets a fatal end, a genuine love and brotherhood reigns supreme.  BearCity 3 is a fantastic conclusion to Langway’s trilogy and quite possibly his finest example of writing, editing, and filmmaking to date.  And not surprisingly, Douglas Langway delivers an acknowledgement to his real life bear family – the many bears and bear lovers who have contributed to Langway’s vision over the years and continue to help him weave humorous and dramatic stories.

4 Stars

Read our interview with Douglas Langway

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Dave Croyle

Dave Croyle

Dave Croyle is an advertising and marketing professional with a knack for building ideas and getting things done. Throughout his career he has written and produced creative work for a variety of brands, big and small. As a history buff and art geek, Dave is passionate about exploring cultures and seeing the world. Dave resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and two dogs.