Infinitely Polar Bear

Infinitely Polar Bear ★★★★

Infinitely Polar Bear gave me a nice change of pace after spending most of my free time in the past week watching horror/thriller movies. This is one of those flawed, but feel-good movies that I absolutely adore, owed largely to its irresistible charm and delightful story. Maya Forbes did a fine job in her first directorial effort.

Infinitely Polar Bear follows Mark Ruffalo's Cam, a man diagnosed with polar disorder/manic depression and how he must take care of the two daughters, after Zoe Saldana's Maggie decides to pursue a Master's in business in the hope of later finding a decent job so she can support the family. Basically Ruffalo's character finds himself assuming the role of caregiver, while his wife becomes the family's breadwinner.

The movie is autobiographical since it's based on Maya Forbes's experiences in her formative childhood years when she lived with her father who had bipolar disorder. In many ways, the movie is a love letter to her dad. There are justifications in Forbes' light, comedic touch to the heavy subject matter. The film is less about going deep into the psyche of one man than about exploring the daughters' relationship with their father and their increasing frustrations with his mental instability. While Forbes provides a sketchy social, political landscape for the movie, she's more interested in crafting an intimate comedy-drama.

The movie is anchored by Mark Ruffalo's soulful, lively performance. I liked him a lot in The Kids Are All Right and Foxcatcher, but this is far and away my favorite performance from him. Ruffalo's so goddamn likeable here it's so easy to embrace all of his flaws. It's a tough role to play for sure, going from one emotional spectrum to the other, but Ruffalo nailed it with flying colors and never crossed over into caricature. Zoe Saldana and the girls who play the daughter also gave lovely performances.

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