TIFF 2014 Review: Infinitely Polar Bear
Much like its title, everything about Infinitely Polar Bear is infinitely cutesy. For those seeking a less hipster Wes Anderson-esque take on precocious youngsters and their family dynamics with mental illness at its core, this film is tailor-made for you. Basing the story on her difficult childhood being raised by her bipolar father, writer/director Maya Forbes’ assured debut is one of the very rare feel good films at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, and is sure to bring charm and warmth to an audience willing to overlook its saccharine execution.
Shortly following his mental breakdown in Boston in the late 1970’s, Cam (Mark Ruffalo, in one of his strongest performances to date) is asked by his estranged wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana, in a rare non sci-fi blockbuster) to watch their young daughters Amelia and Faith (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide, respectively) while she pursues her scholarship MBA at Columbia University. Destitute and penniless despite their blue-blood backgrounds, Cam and Maggie are at an impasse, as Cam cannot hold down a job due to his mental illness, and thus Maggie, a firm proponent in Cam’s strength as a father and an enriched education, establishes her role as the sole breadwinner of the family. During the eighteen-month time span of her fast-tracked degree, Cam battles his inner demons while attempting to handle the daily trials and tribulations of raising two delightful, intelligent daughters.
Though slightly episodic in nature, Forbes’ script manages to avoid the sweeping and manipulative emotional moments to which family films typically fall prey. The solid ensemble is wholly believable as the troubled Stuart family, and they are a joy to experience.