Review by Frank Plowright
It’s probable that anyone of a surly and cynical disposition will take one look at the twee title and cuddly cover and groan with disbelief, instantly categorising My Boyfriend is a Bear as unimaginative chickflick territory. They’d be in for a shock, missing out on a smart and sassy story that’s actually touching in places, and displays more insight than the average romcom.
At 28 Nora has experienced an entire parade of unsuitable boyfriends, their shortcomings revealed over a captivating spread, although prompting wonder she’d lower her sights so significantly. It’s the moment at which My Boyfriend is a Bear moves from being a loopy sitcom premise that looks to be running out of ideas into what at times is an observational treat.
Having failed to find any happiness with the latest controlling boyfriend, Nora buries her trashy magazines and retreats to an alcohol-fueled determination session with her two best friends about the qualities she wants in her next boyfriend. It’s shortly after that when the bear she’s seen in the forest turns up in Nora’s back yard to return her magazines. Pamela Ribon provides plenty of laughs, but based on the suspension of disbelief, that the bear who fulfils all the criteria on Nora’s wish list can be dressed up in a tux, use the toolkit to reinforce a bed and will never harm her, yet retains most aspects of bear behaviour.
Essential in ensuring this lunacy works is the imaginatively adaptable cartooning provided by Cat Farris, which matches all moods brilliantly. There’s a lightness about the cast, delightfully drawn to express any emotion required, yet with nifty visual tricks such as the world descending into a cubist nightmare to close the drunken session. Best of all is the bear, a giant hulking bear, placed in one ridiculous situation after another and Farris making the most of the comic opportunities.
At a push My Boyfriend is a Bear could be read as an allegory for tolerance, some scenes with Nora’s friend Debra skating there, but that’s entirely secondary to Ribon exploiting the craziness, from Nora introducing the bear to her friends to the necessities of hibernation season. Ribon has a dark side to her humour, with a great halloween scene, so this never descends into the saccharine mush that the title could suggest, and it has a poignancy you’d never believe. It’s a fun read all round, even if you’ve never dated a bear yourself.