Capsule Review Comedy

TIFF Capsule Review: Infinitely Polar Bear

September 11, 2014Ben MK

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To infinity and beyond...

They may play green-skinned superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in Infinitely Polar Bear, Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo prove they're as comfortable in smaller, independent fare as they are in big-budget blockbusters. The semi-autobiographical chronicle of writer/director Maya Forbes' childhood sees the pair struggling to find their footing (both as a couple and as parents) when she leaves to pursue a master's degree, putting him — her bi-polar husband — in the awkward position of caring for their two young daughters.


Set during the late '70s — a time when women were still expected to be stay-at-home moms — much of the film follows the trials and tribulations of chain-smoking Cam Stuart (Ruffalo), a well-meaning man suffering from manic-depressive disorder, as he tries to cope with the demands of being a full-time father to two headstrong daughters, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide). Meanwhile, his wife, Maggie (Saldana), whose decision to leave her family behind in Boston was motivated by Cam's inability to hold down a steady job and their family's impoverished living conditions, hurries to complete her 18-month MBA in New York and return to her family.

Mental illness mixed with family dysfunction is hardly a topic ripe for the comedy-drama, but Forbes approaches the subject matter from an affectionately whimsical perspective, infusing the story with a welcome levity that smooths out the rawness of its emotional truth. Her script also treats both Cam and Maggie — characters molded after Forbes' own parents — with equal amounts of compassion, allowing us to empathize with both of them. But the movie's strong suit is its depiction of the heartwarming bond that develops between Cam and his daughters. It's poignant and uplifting, and perhaps it even oversimplifies the family's struggles. But sometimes life's too complicated anyway.  Ben Mk

Infinitely Polar Bear receives its Canadian premiere as part of TIFF 2014's Gala Presentations programme and is currently scheduled for a 2015 release by Mongrel Media. Photo credit: Mongrel Media.

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