Infinitely Polar Bear: Film Review
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana
Director: Maya Forbes
Dysfunction is the cinematic norm for families and Infinitely Polar Bear makes no attempts to deviate from that.
An engaging and utterly charismatic Mark Ruffalo dials it up to 11 as Cam, a manic-depressive father whose breakdown precipitates the demise of his family. As his wife Maggie (an under-used Zoe Saldana) heads back to business school to secure a qualification to help them financially, Cam finds it's his turn to take the reins and look after their daughters - as well as try and get his own life and wife back on track.
Exec-produced by the Bad Robot team of JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk, Infinitely Polar Bear has crowd-pleasing written all over it.
Mark Ruffalo is positively oozing charm as Cam, who always seems to be manic and likable no matter what the situation with his daughters in this debut from writer / director Forbes. But that's also some of the problem of Infinitely Polar Bear; Cam's illness is often a caricature rather than a characteristic with his behaviour providing one too many punchlines during the movie.
It's a shame because Ruffalo is nothing short of endearing and an unconventional style and writing stops Infinitely Polar Bear from becoming the eccentric piece it so easily could have done if the manic behaviour had been more of a presence throughout.
That said, there are some lovely touches peppered into Forbes' debut; from a beautiful montage of Super 8 footage at the start detailing Cam and Maggie's courtship to a jauntily evocative and folksy OST, the movie has a feel-good glow around it. Off kilter lines catch you out and provoke spontaneous laughter as you fight them (and one Shining reference is brilliantly shoe-horned in to maximum effect).
A luminous Saldana is relatively sidelined due to dramatic necessity throughout and Infinitely Polar Bear remains Ruffalo's showcase from beginning to end.
From his Nacho Libre style get up at his breakdown to the final doffing of an inappropriate hat, Ruffalo imbues the screen with such good nature and charisma as Cam negotiates his unpredictable way through such raucous parenting that it's impossible to not watch.
Ultimately, Infinitely Polar Bear will charm you thanks to Ruffalo's performance, guiding you through the highs of the lows (there's hardly any exploration of the more devastating sides of the bipolar condition which is a crippling fault of the film) with a skill that's to be vaguely admired rather than totally applauded.