Infinitely Polar Bear Blu-ray Review
When someone makes a film that is personal to them, it can make all the difference in the world. Director/Screenwriter Maya Forbes has done just that with INFINITELY POLAR BEAR. The film is based on her childhood and dealing with her father’s bipolar disorder. This picture is slow going at first, but it picks up steam to become a quite compelling drama.
Forbes did change some names around, but the spirit still remains. We first get an introduction to the romance between Cam (Mark Ruffalo) and Maggie (Zoe Saldana). Then it fast forwards to 1978 where Cam is going through a psychotic break. Cam is put into a halfway house to deal with his condition. He’s put on drugs that make him act like a zombie. It is unsettling for his two daughters Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky, Forbes’s real life daughter) and Faith (Ashley Aufderhelde) to see their father like this. He’s always been carefree and spirited. He likes his daughters to experience the world around them with no barriers. Sometimes he goes too far though. It is hard to criticize child actors. They are still children. But here the two girls played by Wolodarsky and Aufderhelde are wonderfully gifted and just natural. There are no gestures or movements that signify a performance. It feels authentic and should be celebrated when you see it on the screen.
Maggie has settled into a rent controlled apartment. She has taken a job that barely feeds her family. Things get worse for the family when the good public school that the girls are in find out that they are not zoned for this school. It is a bad break since this means they have to go to a school with a lot worse reputation. Maggie decides to take drastic measures. She applies to business schools. She wants to make a better life for herself and her children.
Maggie does get into Columbia, but can’t bring her children with her. So she asks Cam to take care of them. This is where the film really takes off as Cam adjusts to all these responsibilities. His doctors feel he is ready for this challenge as long as he keeps taking his lithium.
Ruffalo has this everyman quality about him. He can easily play characters from vastly different backgrounds. Ruffalo is never afraid for his character to be perceived as a jerk and show the various emotions of Cam. Cam goes through many difficulties as he takes care of the kids. The neighbors try to avoid him whenever possible. He embarrasses the girls with his words and actions. It is a tricky balance for him and for Ruffalo to pull off. Maggie tries to come down on the weekends when she can and she is devastated every time she has to leave her family.
Cam is a bit of a hoarder and he has junk all over the apartment. It represents his cluttered mind. Sometimes he goes off the lithium and his moods change rapidly. This leads him to leave the kids and go out drinking all night. Cam is from a rich family. His grandmother though controls the purse strings to his trust and is frugal about doling out any extra money. So Cam and the girls live poorly. Cam tries to get her to pay for private schooling, but she finds that frivolous. The family is breaking apart, while at the same time coming together. This film doesn’t tie everything up in a neat bow. This is real life. Cam and Maggie’s marriage isn’t resolved with a single romantic gesture. It is left open what happens in that regard.
INFINITELY POLAR BEAR isn’t always a pleasant movie to get through. But it does speak truth about family and what it takes at times to get through the day. It also tackles the tricky nature of bipolar disorder with aplomb. It’s not an easy thing to show or understand.
Video: The video shines through. The seasons are shown well with the various colors that come with them.
Audio: The sound was adequate enough. I was amazed how many options for subtitles there are here. There were over 15.
Commentary with Mark Ruffalo, Director Maya Forbes and Producer Wally Wolodarsky: Wally is Maya’s husband. The three discuss the making of the film. It is quite good natured and never taken very seriously. It is interesting when they go over the various filming locations and the issues they encountered. It was also illuminating how the filmmakers’s daughter was cast for the key role.
LA Film Festival Q&A with Cast and Filmakers (10:26): This is moderated by JJ Abrams, who is one of the executive producers of the film. He is joined by Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo, Maya Forbes and Imogene Wolodarsky. They discuss the challenges of making the film. Forbes relays how hard it was to get backing and her difficulties as being a female director in a male dominated field. Bipolar disorder is tackled. Each of the actors describes how they tackled their roles.
Deleted Scenes (4:06): There are four scenes in all. None of them are that significant. Most of them involve Cam driving. The only added thing gleamed from one of these scenes is that Maggie is dating someone in New York. That isn’t conveyed in the film.