Mickey and the Bear
Mickey Peck (Camila Morrone), a teenager, lives with her drug-addicted father, Hank (James Badge Dale), a war veteran suffering from PTSD. She has a boyfriend, Beth (Katee Ferguson), a love interest, Wyatt (Calvin Demba), and a best friend, Beth (Katee Ferguson), but she yearns to break free from her toxic life at home.
Mickey and the Bear is a prison break film, but not in the literal sense. Mickey remains trapped at home with her emotionally abusive father. She has to parent him on many levels, including taking care of his basic needs. Her shallow boyfriend tries to pressure her to get pregnant. Her mother died of cancer, so she has no one to parent her nor to be a good role model except for Wyatt. Watching her trying to escape her emotional prison is equally heartbreaking and heartwarming. Writer/director Annabelle Attanasio has woven an intimate, understated character study that doesn't try too hard to entertain or please the audience. The dialogue sounds natural, the pace moves along slowly, but not too slow, and there aren't any overly-stylistic camera tricks.
Fortunately, in spite of how abusive Hank is as a parent, Hank never becomes like a villain. He's just a very flawed human being. Mickey is doing the best she can do, but she seems to be lighting herself on fire, so-to-speak, just to keep her father warm. Where did she learn do be so kind and compassionate? Certainly not from her father, so perhaps her mother was kind and compassionate. There are no flashbacks showing Mickey's mother, so it's up to the audience to imagine what she was like. Attanasio trusts the audience's emotions, patience and intelligence while exploring innate struggles of a teenage girl. With a less sensitive screenplay, there would've been too many subplots, characters, and an uneven tone, but the film remains focused on Mickey, and the screenplay designs a large window into the heart, mind and soul of Mickey and Hank.
Camila Morrone and James Badge Dale both deserve to be commended for bearing their souls and thereby opening that window into their character's heart, mind and soul. They give naturalistic and deeply moving performances that ring true from start to finish. Morrone is just as radiant as Saoirse Ronan is in another coming-of-age film, Lady Bird which would make for an interesting double feature. Another coming-of-age film that would pair well with this one is Shirley Valentine, middle-aged woman stuck in an emotionally abusive marriage and tries to reclaim her life. Waves also shares a lot in common with Mickey and the Bear, but it's in a league of its own. There is indeed poetry to be found here, i.e. in the word "bear" in the title, but it doesn't it you over the head. Fans of Truffaut will appreciate the very appropriate nod to The 400 Blows. Perhaps in a parallel universe of fiction, Mickey could meet and Antoine Doinel and perhaps even Harold and Maude. At a running time of 88 minutes, Mickey and the Bear is genuinely poignant, understated and captivating.