PANDA BEAR is a charming and elegiac story about Kamus Leonardo (Damien Elliot Bynum) who is stuck in a deep well of mourning after the sudden death of his girlfriend Destiny (Melissa Cowan Rattray). He doesn’t seem to care about much of anything, including himself, and is followed around by a Panda Bear who keeps trying to get him to live his life.
Many stories of grief usually feature the showier and well known stage that occurs right after a loved one’s death. What PANDA BEAR focuses on is a stage that doesn’t happen to everyone or doesn’t last as long for many people. Kamus doesn’t weep or thunder with anger, he simply has lost the will to live. He’s functional to a point, but the loss of his love and the guilt has drained his desire to do the things he normally would. Everything that was so meaningful to him barely registers with him. He eats puffy cheese snacks and can’t be bothered to work, he’s repeatedly late to his day job, and doesn’t have the emotional stamina to create. He sits at home and plays video games while the Panda tries to get him to something. Anything.
Film explorations of grief rarely show this kind of depression and these self destructive urges. Occasionally, you’ll get a romantic comedy like Hope Floats (yes, I watched Hope Floats because I was depressed) where the main character doesn’t wash her hair for a few days to show how this feels, but in PANDA BEAR, this is the whole movie. Those of you who have felt this kind of grief will recognize what Kamus is going through. It’s a mental state that is quite often perplexing and maddening to others who can’t understand how desperate you really are. You aren’t suicidal per se, but you sure aren’t making any attempt to live either. It’s more of a passive suicidal state where you do things that could lead to disaster or death, but not in an overtly dangerous way. That’s where Kamus is and he’s been here for a long time.
This movie was written and directed by Evan Kidd and filmed in North Carolina for under 1000 dollars. I am here to tell you that it was 1000 dollars that were well spent. It’s a very human story that can give you an understanding of what grief can do to people. Death and grief are subjects that people usually avoid like a plague, but since we’re actually in the middle of a genuine plague and you probably have a lot more time on your hands, I would recommend PANDA BEAR. Yes, it is about a scary and frightening subject, but it manages the issues and the topics in a very approachable way. You won’t ever feel depressed by it, but you can find an understanding of it. Also, because of the situation that we all find ourselves in now, it might be helpful to explore this kind of lingering and low grade grief and depression. Chances are that you will be able to relate to this film much more strongly than you thought you could.
The performances are just right and the people are normal and people that you would recognize in your life. That’s until they start getting weirder and these days, I think people an relate to that too. The cinematography by Evan Kidd is very well done for the amount of money they had to work with in the budget. Nothing about the movie is too fancy, but it does have surrealistic touches to it.
PANDA BEAR is a little film, but one that I think you will enjoy. You can find it on Amazon as a Prime selection here.