InReview InReview

Support independent journalism

Film & TV

Infinitely Polar Bear

Film & TV

Comments Print article

Cam is still recovering from a bipolar (manic-depressive) breakdown when he agrees to care for his two young daughters full-time because their mother is moving cities to study.

Infinitely Polar Bear focuses on how the family adapts to Dad’s disorder, reflecting the growing volume of community discussion about mental illness.

It’s a brave idea all round. As an audience member, you wonder if actor Mark Ruffalo has been crazy-brave in taking on the part. Will he make us cringe, or will his portrayal be both compelling and accurate?

As The Theory of Everything and Still Alice recently reminded us, chronic diseases and disorders profoundly influence familial relationships and choices. Yet it’s not always recognised that many children act as brave carers of unwell parents or siblings, a situation which can lead to an unusual path through childhood.

Early on, I thought Infinitely Polar Bear might be told chiefly from the children’s perspective. Instead, despite noble performances from Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide as the daughters, their plausibility is undermined by writer-director Maya Forbes’ efforts to drive home the point that: “Yes, Dad’s crazy, sometimes sad, and prone to bad behaviour. But it’s okay because the kids are growing up to be wise, considerate and joyful.”

It’s interesting that the film was based on Forbes’ own childhood, which may have clouded the first-time director’s vision.

Cam’s story could have been told as a tragedy, comedy or even melodrama; I expected a kitchen-skink drama in the style of Mike Leigh. Somewhat disjointedly, Forbes tries all those styles at different times, but relies mostly on an odd combination of arch comedy and naturalism that undermines Ruffalo’s capacity to convince.

If you’re wondering about Infinitely Polar Bear’s apparently nonsensical title, it is a play on “bipolar disorder” which is mentioned so briefly in the film it’s easy to miss the reference. Like so much about this movie, it’s well intentioned but ultimately misses the mark.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here


Show comments Hide comments
Will my comment be published? Read the guidelines.

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard

More Film & TV stories

Loading next article