For Reel

Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)
November 22, 2015, 11:36 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Maya Forbes
3.5 Stars
Infinitely Polar BearInfinitely Polar Bear comes close to being the worst kind of film about mental illness in its sunniness and optimism, turning bipolar disorder into just another offbeat character trait in a radically eccentric man. Although writer/director Maya Forbes (who based the film on her own childhood) does deal with the sheer horror of living with such a force of nature on occasion–early in the film, Cameron (Mark Ruffalo) has an episode as his family wait in fear in the car–it mostly plays as an extension of his playful exuberance and free-wheeling ideology. Given the autobiographical roots, it is understandable that Infinitely Polar Bear is ultimately so affectionate, and actually it works fairly well as a valentine to a deeply flawed, but loving man. Forbes’s technique involves 16mm home videos, and each of the film’s episodes seems so utterly specific that it conveys a convincing sense of nostalgia. If the film is not a particularly enlightening exposé about what it is to suffer from such a mental disorder, it works as a picture book of a unique childhood, favoring a sentimentality that feels earned and truthful. It would all fall apart without Ruffalo’s considerable charm and affability–this is as good as he’s ever been, stepping out of his sleepy demeanor for something bordering on the theatrical.

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