Friday, June 26, 2015

Infinitely Polar Bear


This review originally appeared on SFist.com.

Mark Ruffalo stars as Cam, the bi-polar father of two young girls in 1970's Boston, who must take on full-time fathering when his wife, Maggie, (Zoe Saldana), goes back to school to earn a business degree.

The story is a fictionalized version of director Maya Forbes's actual childhood, and her real-life daughter, Imogene Wolodarsky, plays a fictionalized version of herself (she's named Amelia in the movie). Both she and Ashley Aufderheide, who plays younger sister Faith, give amazing performances in the film, complete with some really expert comic timing. Their frequent outbursts of embarrassment over their father's actions lighten some moments that would otherwise come across as upsetting. After all, Cam does some really dangerous and irresponsible things while parenting those kids — like leaving them alone at night because he's fed up, and wants to go out drinking. Or driving them around in a car that doesn't have a solid floor.

Cam's illness isn't played entirely for laughs. Mom Maggie knows too well what the manic episodes can wreak. But she also knows that the sight of a drugged up Cam is much more traumatizing to the girls than a Cam that's only occasionally manic. Of course, that's a difficult balance to master when you don't take your medication consistently, which tends to be the case with Cam. So, while the movie attempts its own balance between comedy and drama, it doesn't always succeed, and sometimes — even knowing those kids actually turned out fine — I couldn't help but be distracted by the constant feeling that something could go terribly wrong at any moment.

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