Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
You may not know the name Maya Forbes yet, but you soon will. Forbes’s directorial debut is a little gem of an indie film called ‘Infinitely Polar Bear‘, which she says is an autobiographical film about her growing up in Cambridge Massachusetts, where her mother left for a couple of years to pursue an M.B.A. at Columbia University in order to provide a better life for her family. Meanwhile, Maya’s father was forced to stay at home and take care of her and her sister, even though he was severely bi-polar.
This is more often than not a light-hearted movie. When the times get tough on screen for the family, it is quickly met with a joke or something warm, never letting you dwell or soak in any of the harsh consequences of the father, who goes by Cameron (excellently played by Mark Ruffalo). Cameron’s love for his children and being a great father, when he is able to is never questioned. You can tell he wants to do the right thing always, but his problem sometimes gets the best of him, including leaving the young sisters Amelia and Faith (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufherheide), home alone at night while he goes drinking, making the neighbors uncomfortable, and even keeping the house a bumbling mess.
It’s a lot of responsibility for someone who just got out of being institutionalized. Even the girl’s mother Maggie (Zoe Saldana), coming home almost every weekend to help out, things don’t seem to be changing quickly. Slowly, but surely though, their lives get a tiny bit better as Cameron takes on the responsibility when push comes to shove, and even wins the happy minds of his daughter’s friends at school. By no means is Cameron a bad guy here, and his wife Maggie knows that, even though they are separated. She still wants him to come over and see his kids and spend time with her and his daughters whenever he wants to, which is always, since he can’t hold down a job or get back into the ivy league schools he was kicked out of.
In a way, this is a very happy family film, but with a strange mixture of more-than-average problems, none of them which borderline abuse in any way shape or form. It’s more about a good man, who is trying to cope, live and take responsibility for his family with his manic depression the best way he knows how. It’s quite a delight to see, even if the film is more lighthearted than what the story could have been. Ruffalo is fantastic here, and might be his best performance I’ve seen yet. His charm, wit, and body language here is just spot on. You really feel his struggle for wanting to be the man his family wants him to be.
Saldana is also wonderful here, as she juggles the emotional journey of being away from her family and dealing with her sick husband. The two daughters were both great as well and gave a very realistic vibe and performance to everything that was happening on screen. That might be because the oldest daughter was played by Maya’s real life daughter Imogene. ‘Infinitely Polar Bear‘ is a small indie film with a big heart. It has amazing performances and a great and light-hearted score that keeps things from getting into a nasty realm. I can see Ruffalo getting nominated again for some award in the future with his performance here.
– Bryan Kluger