Black Bear Movie Explained (Plot & Ending)

Black Bear is a psychological drama written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine. It stars Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, and Sarah Gadon in prominent roles. The film follows Allison, a moviemaker at a B&B looking to work on her script. However, the tranquil setting soon becomes the stage for confronting her inner turmoil. Here’s the plot and ending of the movie Black Bear explained; spoilers ahead.

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Black Bear: Plot Explained

The movie Black Bear is centred on Allison, who experiences two realities, one where she is a home wrecker and the other where she’s played by her husband and an actress to extract a worthy performance from her. The film portrays Allison’s experiences in the form of screenplays.

The film opens with Allison sitting on a pier, looking at the foggy lake. She gets up, heads inside, and goes to a room where she sits in a corner and writes in her journal.

Act 1: The Bear In The Road

Black Bear Movie Part 1

This first part starts with Allison arriving at Gabe and Blair’s home, which is being offered as a Bed and Breakfast place. Allison tells Gabe that she’s a filmmaker and is going to work on her script. We see some sparks between Gabe and Allison, but right after, we’re introduced to Blair, who is pregnant with Gabe’s child.

Gabe and Blair have many unresolved issues and are staying in this house as they could not afford Brooklyn. Gabe was a struggling musician, and Blair was an upcoming dancer. Neither of their professional lives could support a baby, so they moved out. The couple’s disagreement becomes apparent during the conversation in the night, with Allison constantly throwing fuel into the already riled-up arguments.

After patching up with Blair, Gabe puts her to sleep and promptly proceeds to join Allison for a swim, and the two make out on the couch right after. Blair interrupts by smacking Gabe on the head. In the confrontation that follows, Gabe pushes Blair onto the sofa, and she begins to bleed. With the pregnancy at risk, Gabe rushes Allison to pull out the car, and they drive Blair to the hospital. A black bear in the middle of the road causes Allison to swerve and hit a tree. And this brings Part 1 to a close.

Act 2: The Bear by the Boat House

Black Bear Movie Part 2

In this act, we see Allison again at the pier standing up to walk indoors, but it’s part of a movie shooting this time. In this reality, Allison and Gabe are married and are producing this film. While Gabe was in disagreement, Allison wanted to star in this movie. I believe he thought she didn’t have the necessary intensity for the role.

The film they’re shooting has a bunch of roles reversed from Act 1 of Black Bear. Allison and her partner (played by another actor) are owners of the B&B, and Clair is their guest. To get the desired acting out of Allison, Gabe and Clair act like they’re having an affair, which pushes Allison to the edge. While she delivers the role, she gets drunk and physically assaults Clair. Gabe’s and Allison’s marriage is a wreck, and everyone knows this when Allison asks for Baako, the cameraman, for a quickie in the room. 

After this, the shoot wraps up as Allison completes the final scene, breaks down and cries uncontrollably. Later, Gabe tells Allison that nothing is going on between him and Blair. After that, Gabe promptly heads over to the pier and joins Blair for a swim, and the two start making out on the couch. Allison comes looking for Gabe and finds him, but instead of confronting them, Allison turns around and finds a black bear by the house, and she walks towards it. And this brings Act 2 to a close.

The film concludes with the same foggy pier scene, in which Allison walks inside and begins to write, but this time, she looks straight into the camera.

I know you’re left with all kinds of questions about what on earth happened here, so let’s talk about possible theories as to what the movie Black Bear was all about. The final scene is a repeating motif of Allison walking inside what appears to be an empty house and looking right at the camera, indicating that none of what we saw was real. It was all a product of Allison’s writing.

Black Bear Theory 1: Both Acts 1 And 2 Are Allison’s Writing

Allison has suffered some undisclosed trauma in the past, and those are translated into two different scripts, which are presented as Act 1 and Act 2. This means the house is empty, and Allison is by herself writing two different stories for us, which is why she looks at the audience in the end.

Black Bear Theory 2: Act 2 Really Happened, Act 1 Is A Journal Entry

The other possibility is that Act 2 is real life, and Allison was abused by Gabe, who manipulated her for the film and finally ended up sleeping with Blair, ending his marriage with Allison. After that, Allison takes a break and tries to recover from the trauma by journaling her experience. Because she’s a filmmaker, she journals it as a screenplay, which we see in the form of Act 1. Let’s be clear: Allison is not writing a script for a movie based on Act 2 because Act 2 was already a movie that was completed (and most likely released).

Black Bear Theory 3: Act 1 Really Happened, Act 2 Is A Creative Meta Screenplay

The third option is that Act 1 was real, and Allison wrecked a couple’s relationship by sleeping with Gabe. Well sure, if not for Allison, Gabe would have slept with another, but that doesn’t mean Allison isn’t guilty too. After watching what Blair went through, Allison is out in a B&B alone, reminiscing on the events and transforming them into a meta screenplay where she’s put herself in Blair’s place, experiencing the trauma of being cheated on.

Black Bear Movie Ending Explained

The ending of Black Blear shows us that Allison is penning stories for the audience based on some past trauma she has had. Those incomplete stories are presented to us as Act 1 and Act 2. In reality, Gabe and Clair are not at home, and what we see are Allison’s mental projections in the form of incomplete screenplays.

Meaning Of The Black Bear In The Movie

Both Act 1 and Act 2 are unfinished stories, or segments of a story, and because Allison doesn’t know how to end them, she inserts a black bear in both acts that abruptly ends the segments. The sole purpose of the black bear is to bring a sudden end to the story with the randomness of its presence because the rest of the story hasn’t been thought through. While Black Bear symbolizes strength, resourcefulness, and self-sufficiency, that metaphor is not really present in this film, could you?

What did you think about the plot and ending of Black Bear? Did you have another theory? Please add your thoughts to the section below.