10 nov. 2015

Infinitely Polar Bear (5/10): A light hearted portrayal of a father dealing with bipolar disorder

“My father was diagnosed manic-depressive in 1967.”

Maya Forbes’s debut film received a lot of praise when it was released at TIFF last year, especially for Mark Ruffalo’s lead portrayal of a father undergoing a bipolar disorder. The film is set in the early 70’s and it centers on this unconventional family that is separated when Cameron has his first breakdown and is sent to a halfway house. Maggie (Zoe Saldana) is left on her own trying to raise her two young daughters with very low income. Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) and Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) are very spirited and loud spoken girls who want their parents to be reunited once again. Wanting to give her girls a better life, Maggie decides to move to New York to study and leaves the girls in Cameron’s charge. The film focuses on this estranged father and daughter relationship in a very light hearted way. Cameron has his usual up and downs, while the girls struggle to adapt to their new lives. Ruffalo is a talented actor, but every time he would have an outbreak I kept on waiting for him to transform himself into The Hulk. I never really saw him as Cameron and I had a difficult time seeing Ruffalo as this character despite all the praise he’s received for his performance. I personally felt the material was taken in a very light hearted way, but I’m in the minority here. Overall I did enjoy the pacing of the film, but I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing.

Zoe Saldana is a talented actress, but she is relegated here to a supporting role because the focus of the film is on the father and daughter relationships. Her chemistry with Ruffalo wasn’t an important aspect of the film and it is a shame because she is the one making the sacrifices for her daughters. She is playing a strong and independent female role but the film doesn’t take time to focus much on her character and the sacrifices (or risks) she makes for her children. It decides to center on Cameron and his ups and downs as he struggles to care for his daughters. The two child actresses are fantastic. They have some strong emotional scenes and I especially enjoyed Imogene Wolodarsky’s performance. The daughters are given pivotal roles because the film revolves on them and how they are affected by their father’s mental illness. This is a light hearted drama that never manages to scratch under the surface, but for audiences who are simply looking for a fun drama it offers more than enough.  

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