In the late 70's, in Boston, the bipolar Cameron "Cam" Stuart lives with his mulatto wife Maggie and their daughters Amelia and Faith in an isolated house in the countryside. When Cam is fired from his job, he has a mental breakdown and Maggie is forced to institutionalize him. When he is released, he moves to a small apartment while Maggie works to support the children. She decides to apply to an MBA to improve her income and she is accepted by the Columbia University in New York. She asks Cam to take care of the girls for eighteen months and he agrees despite his fears. Maggie moves to New York and Cam is responsible for Amelia and Faith education. Will the scheme work? Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Based on the director's childhood with her sister. Maya Forbes' sister China sings the song "The Northern Line" over the end credits. See more »
On a book shelf there are various board games in the background, including "Trivial Pursuit." The movie is set in 1978, Trivial Pursuit was not released on the market until 1982. See more »
My father was diagnosed manic depressive in 1967. He'd been going around Cambridge in a fake beard calling himself Jesus John Harvard. When he got better, he started working in public television in Boston. He met my mother there. He walked up and took her picture. On their first date, he took her on a driving tour of New England and told her all about his nervous breakdowns. She didn't care. She said it was a crazy time. Half the people they knew were going bananas. So ...
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Late 70s period piece on dealing with manic-depression
"Infinitely Polar Bear" (2014 release; 90 min.) brings the story of Cam Stewart (played by Mark Ruffalo) and his family. As the movie opens, we get a clever montage of 8 mm. footage from 1967 (how Cam and Maggie met in Boston and eventually married) on to the present (i.e. 1978). Cam is a manic depressive and he just got fired (again) on the first day of his latest job. It leads to an outburst and eventually Cam is put away. We then move to "six weeks later', where Cam is in a halfway house. Maggie is desperate to improve their financial situation and decides to do an MBA on a full scholarship at Columbia, leaving Cam to take care of their 2 daughters Amelia and Faith. At this point we're about 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first, this movie is a labor of love from writer-director Maya Forbes (best known for her work on The Larry Sanders Show). She bases the story on her own upbringing and as such the movie is pretty much autobiographical. To make things even more authentic, she cast her 12 yr. old daughter (Imogene Wolodarsky) as her younger self (Amelia). I noticed in the movie's opening credits that J.J. Abrams is one of the executive producers. Second, I don't know to what extent the portrayal of the Cam character is an accurate reflection of being manic-depressive or bi-polar. Yes, there are the highs and the lows, and yes, there is the habit/need to never throw out anything and instead collect like hamsters do, but is that enough? I do not know. But it all looks quite innocent on the big screen, and no 'bad' things happen to anyone in this. Third, the four leading acting performances (Ruffalo, Wolodarsky, Zoey Baldana as Maggie, and Ashley Aufderheide as Faith) are all enjoyable, and the interaction between them feels authentic. Fourth, the movie, set in the late 70s, contains a treasure trove of period cars from the 60s and 70s. Check out the Peugot station wagon Cam has at some point, but that's just one example. Truly a eye candy for car aficionados. Last but not least, there is a terrific soundtrack, including both the original score (by Theodore Shapiro) and a bunch of songs (best of all, George Harrison's Run of the Mill, which plays at the conclusion of the movie and over the closing credits; and also China Forbes (of Pink Martini, and sister of Maya Forbes) bringing an excellent new tune called "The Northern Line", also playing over the closing credits).
This movie made quite a splash at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. No idea why it's taken another 18 months for this to get a national release. "Infinitely Polar Bear" opened some weeks ago at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and apparently is enjoying a good run. The recent early evening screening where I saw this at was attended nicely. If you are in the mood for something that could be quite heavy but in fact is brought with a light touch and a smile never far away, and you want to see something light years away from Hollywood's standard summer fare of action heroes, I might suggest you give this a try, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.
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