Monday, July 6, 2015

[Review] Infinitely Polar Bear

Infinitely Polar Bear is a bittersweet and well-intended indie dramedy starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana. It deals with the prickly subject of mental illness. Inspired by her own life, Director Maya Forbes presents her lens of growing up in an interracial family and dealing with a bipolar father.

Set in the '70s, the film revolves around a family including married couple Cam (Ruffalo) and Maggie (Saldana) and their two daughters. We learn that the marriage has been rocky, because Cam is diagnosed as manic depressive. Even though there is lots of love between the family, Cam's nervous breakdowns and outbursts have kept him living in a halfway house. Struggling financially, Maggie wants to pursue her MBA in order to make a better life for the children, but the problem is--this all depends on whether Cam is fit enough to take care of the kids the majority of the time.

From here on, Cam attempts to rebuild his relationship with his daughters, taking care of them day-to-day while Maggie is at college. The narrative is very observational as it mines the complex situation--one that has the potential to be really bad or really good, or more accurately - both at the same time. It's a confusing adjustment for the kids, because there are many highs and lows along the way. There are moments when Cam slips up, as well as moments when he makes a fun and positive impact and they begin to bond. We're all rooting for this to work.

Mark Ruffalo is stellar here, and he's way more interesting to watch in films like this (also see: You Can Count On Me, The Kids Are Alright, and Begin Again) instead of Avengers. Despite its subject matter, the film is a pretty light slice-of-life, and it essentially boils down to Cam's growth as a parent. It is indeed heartwarming, but it ends up being a bit forgettable aside from Ruffalo's performance. This is still a recommended viewing though, especially if you want a break from the blockbusters.


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