Manic depression and bi-polar disorder are on the table in Infinitely Polar Bear. In a Golden Globe nominated turn, Mark Ruffalo plays Cam Stuart, a father struggling with his own demons when he is put in a role of responsibility of his two daughters. He sees this as an opportunity to reconnect with his ex-wife Maggie (played well by Zoe Saldana), when she decides leaves town to further her education. Thankfully it’s not a case of parental desertion, but instead building herself academically so she can make a better life for her girls. The relationship between the two is messy, a constant battle, and still very loving even after the breakup, which is refreshing to see.
In a story that could’ve been very serious and over-handed, thankfully Polar Bear treats the subject matter with a light touch. It makes the film much more accessible and easier to digest. It’s certainly more of a comedy than you would think, given the title and subject matter. While this takes away the gravitas and intensity, it invariable works in favor of the whole film.
Ruffalo shines, playing a man who’s mind is constantly on the move, switching tasks, for better and worse. His disease isn’t one of great ups-and-downs, but more a substantial, constant battle with himself. His eccentricities are many and random. He seems to be able to do everything he ever wants or needs to know, from sewing a skirt to making chocolate truffles, from karate to small construction projects. A jack-of-all-trades sort who is unfortunately trapped inside his own mind.
His daughters are strong-willed and a bit of a handful, which doesn’t make his task any easier. But they are also brilliant and outspoken, worthy of better than their current situation will allow them.
While the film may not do anything revolutionary, it’s still a pleasant watch, with several worthy performances. The characters are well defined, and while the storyline has a bit of a one-note, repetitive feel at times, the overall narrative makes you care enough about the people you’re watching to give way to a finale that seems just right.