Infinitely Polar Bear isn’t so much about the adults, but more so the children. It’s about them coming to terms, learning, and adapting to, a manic-depressive, bi-polar, or what have you, father, who tries his hardest but is constantly struggling.
Trigger Warning(s): Depiction of Mental Illness (Manic-Depressive/ Bi-Polar – Mostly Positive and Balanced Portrayal)
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
As the overview stated, as much as one could argue this movie is about Maggie (Zoe Saldana) and Cameron’s (Mark Ruffalo) amicable, but slowly distancing relationship, it really isn’t. To me, the film is all about the relationship between Cameron and his daughters Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) and Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky). For while they have known their dad is different their whole lives, as they come toward their pre-teen years, and become aware that he is more than daddy, but a person who has flaws, and issues, which aren’t comical but sad sometimes, things change.
Then, on top of that, he is the one raising them. For Maggie is trying to find a way to replicate the upbringing her and Cameron had and, unfortunately, being away from her girls, to go to Colombia, seems to be the only way. So that means the girls are dealing with their dad’s ups and downs, his social dependency on them, since he has no friends of his own, and are forced to adjust and set boundaries. All before even, likely, hitting 13.
Love the “Is what it is” handling of racism, sexism, and being bi-racial. If only because it makes it seem like they have come to terms with the way the world is and acknowledge the characters aren’t social justice warriors, but people simply trying to make a living and, arguably, like most people, rather find a way to survive than fight for the long haul.
I loved Ruffalo’s way of performing Cameron, and how Cameron’s story is written. For while he is someone with a mental illness, I don’t feel it is ever taken to a place where it is just over the top. Granted, he has many moments which are embarrassing, especially to his kids, and the up and down nature of his person is frightening to them, but none of it seems to be simply there for dramatic effect. There is enough shown to show the difficulty of being in love with a man like him, and the trauma a person like him could cause to his own children, but there is the perfect balance of showing the good times and bad times to make him seem human, and not just a visualization of an illness.
Despite us sporadically seeing Cameron’s family members, though none of them making a huge impact, we don’t see any of Maggie’s. Which I think is a disservice considering how Amelia has issues with being seen as white, and not Black, and her not having access to her mother’s family in order to learn about Black culture.
On The Fence
For me, I feel that as cute as Ruffalo and Saldana are together, there was something lacking in their chemistry. Like, as much as I understood that she wasn’t as in love with him as she once was, it was hard to imagine what the spark was like in the beginning. If only because I felt like it was more told about than shown.
Overall: TV Viewing
There isn’t much, if anything, wrong with this film, and among films dealing with mental illness, that I‘ve covered here, I do feel this is probably one of the best. What gets me though is that Maggie is seemingly meant to be an important character, for she is the girls mom and Cameron’s significant other, but be it how she was written or performed, she seems like she wasn’t made to really be woven into the heart of the story. Which isn’t the sole reason this is being made TV Viewing. For another issue was that, despite us seeing some of Cameron’s family, we don’t see Maggie’s at all. Which, to add onto the criticism of her character, again makes it seem like Saldana is just cast due to star power and not because there was a character made which was essential.