Infinitely Polar Bear
Although somewhat awkwardly mounted by first time director Maya Forbes, her retelling of her own childhood with a bipolar father in late 70s Boston holds a wealth of empathy and emotion that more than makes up for any technical shortcomings.
Not long after suffering a severe manic episode, Cameron (one of two exceptional performances by Mark Ruffalo at this festival) is asked by his estranged wife (a quietly intense Zoe Saldana) to watch their two children (Ashley Aufderheide and Imogene Wolodarsky) while mom goes away to New York to pursue a business degree from Columbia to provide for the family.
The novice nature of Forbes as a filmmaker manifests itself in how this effort isn’t particularly striking on a visual level (despite spot on period reconstructions of the Boston area) and it feels almost too loosely assembled to hold together.
That doesn’t really matter when you take into account just how much love Forbes has for this material, and her life in general. This film exudes warmth and never lapses into outright caricature or shorthand. There’s also some great subtext involving how Cameron’s family comes from money, but refuses to help in any lasting fashion and how mixed race couples with kids were perceived in a city that was still trying to figure out its own ways of cultural acceptance.
It’s worth it alone for Ruffalo’s period appropriate performance of a man who couldn’t get proper help or medication even if he tried, and Wolodarsky’s work as the older, snarkier sister. (Andrew Parker)
Wednesday, September 10th, 6:30pm, Roy Thompson Hall (PREMIUM)
Thursday, September 11th, 12:30pm, Winter Garden Theatre