The opening shots of Annabelle Attanasio's Mickey and the Bear lets us know we are in for something well-observed, quiet and about how disruption leads to awakening. We see Mickey (Camila Morrone) sleeping. A drip from the ceiling of her dad and her's trailer wakes her up. What lies ahead is a heartfelt look at a fraught relationship.
Mickey's father is the bear, a pain-killer addict Iraq-war vet. Hank (James Badge Dale) has a charm to him at moments but it can quickly turn sour to anger. Mickey is just trying to get through her senior year of high school. She is about to be an adult and must decide the role she wants to play in her father's life.
Much of her day is spent cleaning up the mess that Hank creates. Hank loves his daughter but doesn't want her to go. There is often a push and pull dynamic in their relationship between love and fear. Mickey is never certain what Hank will do even though she loves her father. Hank can't bear the thought of being alone and this perverts his relationship with his daughter.
The film's lead performances are nuanced and convincing. Mickey and the Bear is the type of small drama that relies completely on the believability of the performances and both Morrone and Dale exceed. As things come to a breaking point between these characters, both actors have done the work to understand why things go the way they go. Attanasio's direction understands how complicated people are, letting the performances shift around. It adds an unpredictable to how conflicts play out between them.
Mickey and the Bear is an accomplished debut with two great lead performances. The film is modest but sincere. What it proves is that both the director and lead actress are ones to watch.