Black Bear

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Black Bear Movie Poster Image
Brainy, puzzling meta-movie has sex, drinking, swearing.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Offers plenty to talk about, if no real answers. Themes are related to women's power -- and how men relate to that power -- as well as the point at which creative license crosses a line and the concept of nature itself being in charge.

Positive Role Models

In the movie's first half, a major character is a female film director, although she's not particularly admirable. She isn't really seen doing any work, and she indulges in problematic behavior (drinking, illicit sex, etc.).


A man tackles a pregnant woman and throws her down on the floor; she's hurt and needs the hospital. Character hit on the head with a blunt object; blood on his face. Strong arguing, bickering. Shouting. Car crash. Dialogue about a person dying. Other suggested violence.


A married man kisses a woman who's not his wife and initiates sex. Woman moans, but sex is interrupted. Two people kiss; one starts to strip. Woman without underwear on; her naked bottom is seen. More kissing. Graphic sex-related talk.


Extremely strong language includes constant use of "f--k," "bulls--t," "s--t," "p---y," "a--hole," "bitch," and "d--k," plus "swear to God" and "Jesus Christ."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink heavily (wine, whiskey, etc.) and get staggering drunk. Characters smoke pot/get stoned. Character rolls a joint. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Bear is a drama in two parts. The first charts the disastrous interactions between a film director (Aubrey Plaza) and a married couple, and the second is about the last day of a chaotic film shoot. Characters smoke pot and get high, smoke cigarettes, and drink to staggering (literally) excess. Language is constant and extremely strong, with countless uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. A man throws a pregnant woman to the floor and injures her, and a man is bashed on the head, with some blood shown. There's a car crash, tense bickering, shouting, a description of a person dying, and other suggested violence. In addition to graphic sex-related talk, a married man initiates sex with another woman; the scene includes kissing and moaning, but they're eventually interrupted. A woman kisses and starts to strip for another man; her naked bottom is seen. Overall it's a very mature but brainy, puzzling movie that's constantly intriguing and has powerful, emotional performances.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKepianist October 4, 2021

Excellent, powerful movie. Should be rated R.

I wouldn’t show this to anyone under the age of 17. It’s not just that there is graphic sexual content, drinking, drug use, and swearing. It’s also that the mov... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byrxmvnva February 16, 2021

One of the Best Movies I've Seen

Black bear is essentially a movie that blurs the lines between reality and fiction. The main character Allison, is a filmmaker that is trying to push through he... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BLACK BEAR, filmmaker Allison (Aubrey Plaza) arrives at a lake house that's owned by married couple Blair (Sarah Gadon) and Gabe (Christopher Abbott). They're considering turning the house into a B&B, and Allison, who hopes to find inspiration for her next project, is their first guest. Blair, who's pregnant, and Gabe bicker irritably, and Allison's attempts to lighten the situation fall flat. Characters start drinking, and things come to a head. Then the movie shifts to "Part II," in which the same characters are making a film that's somewhat similar to -- but also different from -- the events of "Part I." Gabe is now the director, playing cruel psychological pranks on the actors to gain more realistic performances. But his latest attempt backfires, leading to more trouble.

Is it any good?

A split-personality meta-movie for film fans with a bit more contextual knowledge than average, this drama is filled with intriguing ideas, as well as thoughtful characters and potent performances. Lawrence Michael Levine's Black Bear is a puzzle that challenges viewers to determine what the two halves have to do with one another, what it all means (if anything), and how the bear fits into it. It's the kind of movie that uses the word "solipsism." The movie's first half is mostly a talky soap opera, tense, as characters react to each other's dialogue with agitation and defiance. But it's filmed with intimacy and flow, and it's as emotional as it is brainy.

The second half, while presumably happening in "reality," is far soapier, with more outsized emotions and erratic behaviors, combined with the chaos of a film shoot that's slowly going off the rails. (Terms like "the martini" are used, which may tickle viewers with insider experience.) All of this allows the actors -- especially Plaza -- plenty of space to explore and find amazing edges and curves for their performances. Black Bear wrestles with themes of creativity and male and female power, including a discussion of how the world has gone downhill after the "erosion of traditional gender roles," but perhaps its ultimate point is that, no matter how smart we think we are, nature is in charge.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Black Bear depicts sex. Do characters have multiple partners? Is sex based on trust and companionship? Is it about power? What are the takeaways?

  • How much violence is shown? Do you consider the bickering/arguing/shouting scenes violent? How did they affect you?

  • How are alcohol, smoking, and drugs depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences for using them? Why does that matter?

  • What does the movie have to say about gender roles? How do men and women behave here? How free are they to express themselves or to do what they want?

  • Talk about the movie's two halves, what they mean, how they might be connected, and why they're different. What does the bear mean?

Movie details

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