Big Screen :: Infinitely Polar Bear

March 27th 2015

infinitely polar bear

Infinitely Polar Bear is the charming little story of two girls being raised by their seriously unqualified and dangerously mentally ill father in 80’s Boston.

See, the girls’ mother decides she needs to go to New York and study in order to make a better life for her family so she asks her estranged husband, in recovery from a huge breakdown, to look after her two preteen girls for a whole year.

From that point on the film is a series of vignettes about how fun and sometimes scary it is to be raised by a seriously erratic and unreliable man. Mark Ruffalo plays the father, and he’s great, providing as always such a relaxed presence on screen. In fact, the whole movie is lightly sketched, short and breezy, making for a totally easy watch. It was great too to see someone on screen working through bi-polar: living with it and managing it, while at the same time not being totally defined by it. By the way, the title is how little Amelia describes her father’s bi-polar, which is kind of sweet. It made me feel bad for thinking it was a stupid title based only on seeing the poster.

As I was sitting there though, I couldn’t help but feel like all the rough edges had been sanded off of Infinitely Polar Bear. The mother, played by Zoe Saldana, is portrayed as a total saint, even though her decision to leave her children in Ruffalo’s care is not what you would call great parenting. The movie portrays her leaving her daughters to go to New York as some kind of grand selfless sacrifice to make a better life for her kids, which I felt didn’t totally make sense. It brushes over the possibility of her taking the girls with her, which would seem to be the more logical option. The family are constantly broke, even though Ruffalo comes from old money and his family support him financially. Sort of. It’s not totally clear. It’s almost like the film is giving you a scenario and trying to tell you what to think about it, but it doesn’t quite add up.

That’s maybe not fair, because this was written and directed by Maya Forbes, a TV writer who has based it on her own life experiences. I guess this entitles her to tell this story exactly how she wants. While Infinitely Polar Bear is an assured debut film that I liked quite a bit, it’s not something that really demands being seen at the cinema. It’s maybe better suited to a rainy day at home.


Get Big Screen podcasts



Big Screen :: The Gunman

Big Screen :: The Fast & The Furious 7

Big Screen :: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Big Screen :: The Theory of Everything



Read more from FBi Radio