Review: Infinitely Polar Bear

If your experience of having an alcoholic parent with bipolar disorder isn’t particularly rosy then this film may not resonate with you. Writer/director Maya Forbes introduces us to her own father via this semi-autobiographical vehicle starring Mark Ruffalo as the boisterous and afflicted Cameron – an eccentric New York blue-blood that has suffered a nervous break down and a tumble down the social ladder. It’s 1978 and Cam’s wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) accepts a scholarship to Columbia University’s business school. The couple can’t afford to relocate the whole family to New York, so unemployable, chain-smoking Cam must commit to becoming the sole caregiver of their two daughters for 18 months.

So begins an unpredictable joyride of domestic chaos that hints at but ultimately steers clear of anything too dark or neglectful, giving the general impression that manic depression is synonymous with fun art projects, unusual breakfast foods and creative swearing. The director has cast her own daughter, Imogene Wolodarsky as the younger her, both charming and convincing as a pre-adolescent navigating her bi-racial identity in the late-’70s as well as the embarrassment of her unusual home life. Both Wolodarsky and the younger Ashley Aufderheide have a precocious wit that carries the film’s lighter moments, and such a hilarious rapport with Ruffalo that it begs forgiveness for the film’s less-than-realistic observations of mental illness.

At the end of the day it’s Forbes’ story to tell, and although she does so with rose-tinted glasses glued firmly in place, Infinitely Polar Bear is a funny, sympathetic tale about loving, determined parents looking for a better life for their kids.

‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ Movie Times