Child-like wonder and flights of fantasy await in Brigsby Bear, a touching indie-drama that shows how healing the power of storytelling and creativity can be, and how such activities can provide meaning in our lives when there is nothing left for us to believe in.
Having spent 25 years of his life in an underground bunker believing his family have survived a doomsday event James Pope (Kyle Mooney) has become obsessed with a children’s TV show called Brigsby Bear, which is his only connection to a wider world. But when he is suddenly taken by police and it is revealed that he was kidnapped as a baby and all he knows is nothing more than illusion James gives up all hope on what he once believed in. That is except for Brisgby Bear. But when he finds out that there will never be another Brigsby Bear episode, James, along with a new group of growing friends, sets out to finish the story and along the way learns about all the wonders of the world.
If you’re looking for a film that will make you shed a tear this year then it is without a doubt Brigsby Bear. Directed by Dave McCary and based off a screenplay by Mooney, who himself stars in the lead role of the quirky, off-beat James, these two collaborators have created what is undoubtedly one of the most touching film experiences of the year. Part of what drew my admiration for this story was the focus that was placed on cinema as a form of growth and healing. While Mooney’s James has not been subject to any horrendous forms of abuse by his captors he has been left as a shell of a person with no concepts of the real world or how to act in it. The only thing that he has any interest in is his beloved Brigsby Bear and it’s this that leads him to the pursuit of filmmaking and a group of friends, who at first view him with some sense of odd wonder, but who come to buy into his vision and help him craft the final Brigsby Bear episode.
Both Mooney and McCary have a history as creators on Saturday Night Live and this off-beat sense of comedy definitely shines through, even with all the heavy drama that is present. The comedy results from both James’s amateur antics such as when he wants to create a pyrotechnic effect, but instead build’s an IED, as well as from Mark Hamill’s performance as his captor and one-time father Ted Mitchum who provides the narrative voice of the off-beat and whimsical Brigsby Bear. Hamill was a real treat to watch up on screen as Ted, who’s almost like some kind of kooky Jim Henson, and while he may have been James’ captor, along with his wife April, in the scenes that the two of them do share together you do feel a deep sense of love between the two, and like any father, Ted does want the best for James.
Part of what really won me over with Brigsby Bear was how the film celebrated the art of filmmaking and creativity. This was especially apparent in its significance in the film to help James find some kind of meaning in his life. Thematically Mooney and McCary used it as a plot device to also show James’s journey and growth as a character as he learns how to make friends, discovers new skills and essentially finds his passion in life. As a lifelong film fan its great to see the subject of filmmaking being treated as such an important narrative device and being recognised as something so essential to the growth and development of the film’s central character.
If nominations are open for the year’s most heartwarming film then I’m nominating Brigsby Bear! This quirky little indie tugs at your heart and will definitely put a smile on your face once the credits start to roll. They don’t get more adorable than this.
Image: Sony Pictures