We are all looking for a little distraction nowadays. Something to entertain us for a little bit. A film like Infinitely Polar Bear fits that bill. Now, you might think that all this isolation has finally got to me, but hear me out. Just because this is a film about a man with mental health issues trying to get his life back together does not make it a downer. Actually it is quite uplifting for the most part. Also focuses on the importance of family at all times – good and bad.
Living in Boston the Stuart family of four has gone through some tough times. Dad Cam (Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight, Foxcatcher) has had his share of mental health issues which have disrupted family life. He is bipolar and goes through good cycles followed by those in which he decides not to take his meds which cause him to spiral. Mom Maggie (Zoe Saldana – Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy) loves him, but is stressed out due to it and trying to keep things together while never seeming to get ahead at work. Their two young daughters, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky – first film) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide – Going in Style), have to deal with the ups and downs. After once again seeing Cam go off his meds, Maggie moves out and takes the girls with her.
When Maggie decides that to better the family’s financial situation she is going to go back to college full time, this changes everyone’s life. Despite the fact that he is just out of his most recent hospitalization, Maggie asks Cam to become the girls’ full time parent while she goes off to New York to get her MBA at Columbia. Though he is frightened about what that means, Cam, who loves his girls, agrees to the 18 month change. Now, he just has to do it.
Other than maybe Tom Hanks there are no more likable American actors than Mark Ruffalo. He just seems like a cool and nice guy. Kinda reminds everyone of a guy they know or their nextdoor neighbour. An everyman. Throughout his career people have acknowledged him as such which kinda overlooks the fact that he is a darn good actor. When you look over his body of work it is impressive. The vareity of roles he has taken on. A journalist (Spotlight), a superhero (Avengers), an Olympic wrestler (Foxcatcher), a sex addict (Thanks for Sharing), a doctor who goes blind (Blindness), an attorney (Blood Money), and many others. The guy is not afraid to take on anything. Here is a man with bipolar disorder. Mental illness is a big ask of actors. Kinda like playing an alcoholic. There is plenty of chance of going overboard. Becoming a caricature. Because of his talent, Ruffalo is able to not only turn in a believable portrayal, but a nuanced one. Brings plenty to Cam and the story as a whole.
The two young actresses also do a good job portraying his daughters who love him a lot while at the same time being mortified by his behaviour. Everything about screenwriter/director Maya Forbes’ (The Polka King) film is doused in realism. From the family dynamic to the handling of mental illness. So real that often you feel like the proverbial fly on the wall watching their lives unfold.
Infinitely Polar Bear was originally released in 2015 and is now available to be streamed on Roku.