Infinitely Polar Bear

So we had a brawl on top of his bagpipes and I got so excited that I shit my pants!

Year Released : 2014infinitely-polar-bear-poster
Director : Maya Forbes
Cast : Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide

You know that joyous feeling that you get when you finally get to watch a film that you’ve wanted to watch for an exceptionally long time? That’s how I felt when I got the chance to watch Infinitely Polar Bear, a film that I recently listed on here as one of the five films I was looking forward to for the rest of the year.

I have been excited about Infinitely Polar Bear, it looked to be the perfect showcase for Ruffalo’s acting ability, as well as given Saldana a more down to earth and natural feeling role after several years spent in various sci-fi films, not that that’s a bad thing at all….I am a geek afterall.

My one sincere hope is that this isn’t as much of a disappointment as a lot of other films that I look forward to so much. I tend to end up not liking films that I’m looking forward to because I get my hopes up too much. For example, I didn’t particularly enjoy “Legend”, it wasn’t bad by any stretch, but I seem to be the only person who didn’t enjoy it and those expecting it in my top 10 at the end of the year will be disappointed.

Plot

Manic depressive Cameron (Ruffalo) gets fired from his job due to his eccentricities and subsequently takes his children out of school for the day, his wife Maggie (Saldana) tries to take his children away, leading to an episode. Cameron is quickly arrested and committed to a mental hospital. Maggie moves to the city with the hopes of security a better job, much to the annoyance of daughters Amelia (Wolodarsky) and Faith (Aufderheide).

Despite initially struggling to get a new job, Maggie eventually manages to get into law school and she agrees that it’s time that Cameron returns home to look after the girls. Typically for children, they don’t appreciate Cameron’s efforts to overcome his mental disorder, and this causes him to become significantly more stressed and more prone to manic depressive episodes. Despite everything, Cameron does manage to get things together in time for Maggie returning.

When it comes around to Maggie finally being close on qualifying, employers won’t give her the time of day when she reveals that she has children, and the long distance relationship, as well as the pressure that Cameron feels, starts to push the couple apart, especially as the whole family can’t understand why Cameron won’t willingly ask his rich family for financial assistance.

This eventually leads Maggie to make the toughest decision possible for the family.

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Worth the wait?

Infinitely Polar Bear is in many ways exactly what I wanted it to be. It is warm, vibrant, inspiring and heartbreaking at times. It successfully grabs you with the first scene as Cameron has a nervous breakdown when Maggie starts taking the children away due to his unusual behaviour. Right there, in the very first scene, it grabs you.

The scene tells you everything that you need to know about the characters right from the off, and because of this there is no need for exposition that you get in many other films. You learn all about the different sides to Cameron’s character, how much he cares for his kids, and you learn that although Maggie is terrified of Cameron when he is in his depressive and angry state, she ultimately knows that she would not do anything to harm them. This latter knowledge makes the emotional portrayal by Zoe Saldana in the scene where she leaves her kids with Cameron even more impactful.

It is genuinely refreshing to see such a unique idea for a film. I can’t think of anything else of a similar nature and the performances of Saldana and Ruffalo are gladdening and genuine. I could wax lyrical about both, ranging from Ruffalo’s charming approach to the role and how it is is a great representation of his acting range, and I could easily go on for a while about how Saldana once again has that girl-next-door aura to back up her emotionally captivating performance, but to go on about one more than the other would be an injustice as they both steal the show.

The film isn’t just about the relationship of the family though and it contains some of the most naturally flowing comedy that you’re likely to see anytime soon, and nothing feels forced. I am in some ways struggling to figure out what category to put this film in as it fits in so many seamlessly.

However, this film will not be getting my stamp of approval.

The reason for this is my one and only complaint about the film, and I don’t use this phrase lightly, the children in this film are some of the worst child characters that I have had the misfortune to every watch. They are so incredibly self-centered and have virtually no compassion for their father in some of his difficult scenes. They just expect everything to be done for them and are so ungrateful that someone is trying their hardest to overcome a mental disorder to make their lives better.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that this is representative of a lot of kids, but it’s frustrating to see children that are basically spoilt brats getting moody whenever they are told that they can’t have something that they’re used to, and whilst it is somewhat understandable in the younger child, the older one is at times more emotionally underdeveloped that her sister, meaning considerably less maturity. Whilst the characters are vital to the story, they are by far the worst part of it.

It just never stops, they are constantly self-centered, demanding the impossible, don’t understand why their father wants them to sit at the table for their dinner and refuse to stop dancing and playing the piano, only to get annoyed when he starts objecting to this, and they have no sense of anyone outside of their bubble, and whilst I otherwise loved the film, I actually came to actually hate the two children by the end. Cameron walks out on them several times in frustration and just doing that is remarkable self-constraint on his behalf.

They single-handedly stopped this film from gaining the approved stamp from me and this is such a shame because otherwise it was spot on, warm and genuine.

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Summary

A warm, genuine and largely life-affirming film that would have been a genuine pleasure to watch had the children not be so infuriating during their screen time. You really do sympathise with the character of Cameron because the children are so frustrating and as I mention at the end of the review, they single-handedly stop the film from getting the approval stamp.

Had it not been for them then this would have been one of the easiest approved stamps that I have given since I implemented the system, but unfortunately the brilliant performances from Ruffalo and Saldana can’t save it.

It’s such a shame because I really wanted to love every aspect of this, but I can’t.

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