Romance, realism, and comedy in two Film Center screenings

Romance, realism, and comedy in two Film Center screenings

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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center pairs three very different films for presentation this weekend.

The poignant Danish film “Teddy Bear” follows the struggles of a bodybuilder to break free of his mother and find love. It plays Thursday, Nov. 8, and in the afternoon on Friday, Nov. 9. “The Day I Saw Your Heart,” a French comedy, plays Sunday, Nov. 11.

The documentary “The Waiting Room” looks at a day in the life of an American public hospital’s emergency room. It will play Friday, Nov. 9, and Saturday, Nov. 10. A Q&A session with Island medical professionals will follow the Saturday screening. The French comedy, “The Day I Saw Your Heart,” plays Sunday, and in recognition of Veterans Day, veterans are invited to see the film for free.

“Teddy Bear”

It would be nice to know the Danish title for “Teddy Bear,” since the English one isn’t a perfect fit. Mads Matthiesen won a Sundance World Cinema award for his direction of the film, and it was also nominated for a Grand Jury prize.

The central character, Dennis (Kim Kold, a real-life bodybuilder), has a cartoon of a body, burdened by massive, tattoo-covered muscles. Carrying around the weight of those overdeveloped shoulders speaks volumes about who he is: a shy, unfulfilled man longing for more than life has dished out so far. Thanks to Mr. Kold, Dennis conveys a dignity and gravity that keep “Teddy Bear” from turning into a satire of the cartoon heroes so popular in Hollywood films.

The viewer meets Dennis having dinner with a jaded tanning salon co-manager, a woman whom he may have met at the gym where he works out. Things don’t go well. Once Dennis returns home, his tiny, overbearing mother, Ingrid (Elsebeth Steentoft), cross-examines him for details about his evening, and it becomes very clear that she’s his problem. But Dennis has gotten very good at lying; he doesn’t divulge any information about the date.

The next day, he and Ingrid attend a family celebration for Dennis’s uncle and the uncle’s Thai bride. Dennis decides to try his luck in Thailand and fabricates a story for his mother about a bodybuilding competition in Germany. If this hulk of a man seems out of place in Copenhagen, he looks a brother from another planet in Pattaya, Thailand. Women on the make chase him down the street like harpies.

The restaurant owner his uncle has sent him to runs a front for hookers, a minor plot flaw since the uncle’s wife hardly comes across as a prostitute. Dennis’s first encounters with Pattaya’s provocative women of the night prove painful and embarrassing. Then he meets Toi (Lamaiporn Hougaard) in a Thai workout gym.

From that point on, “Teddy Bear” keeps the viewer guessing about how things will turn out for the gentle giant, who is devoted to his mother as much as he wants his freedom from her iron grip. Suffice it to say that Dennis and “Teddy Bear” will win the viewer’s heart.

“The Waiting Room”

“The Waiting Room” takes a clear-eyed look at what happens in a 24-hour period at the ER of Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. Peter Nicks was inspired to make “The Waiting Room” because of the stories he heard from his wife, who works there. The director relies on close-ups of patients telling their stories to capture effectively the drama of the sick who have no other options.

Last resort of the city’s down-and-out, jobless and uninsured, Highland’s ER is perpetually overcrowded and unable to adequately accommodate its needy patients. Health problems that might be manageable with proper preventative care or intervention turn life-threatening, and Highland personnel try hard to meet their patients’ needs. The good news is that if viewers won’t find the pretty pictures TV hospital shows present, they will be relieved to watch the harried but dedicated doctors and staff perform real-life heroics. Both of these films offer the discerning filmgoer satisfying options to standard Hollywood entertainment films.

Jennifer Devoldere’s “The Day I Saw Your Heart” describes the father-daughter relationship between Justine (Mélanie Laurent), an X-ray technician, and Eli (Michel Blanc), who befriends her ex-boyfriends. This film was not reviewed.

“Paris, Texas,” will play Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the weekly film classic series.”

“Teddy Bear,” Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 pm and Friday, Nov. 9, at 4 pm.

“The Waiting Room,” Friday, Nov. 9, and Saturday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 pm.

“The Day I Saw Your Heart, Sunday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 pm. Admission free for veterans.

“Paris, Texas,” Wednesday, Nov. 14, 7:30 pm.

All films at M.V. Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. $10; $7 for MV Film Society members. For more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

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