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Bi-Polar Father takes over the day-to-day care of his two daughters
INFINITELY POLAR BEAR 7/7/15
Written and directed by Maya Forbes, INFINITELY POLAR BEAR is based on autobiographical reminiscences of family life in late 1970's Boston, where she and her sister were being raised by a manic-depressive father, while their mother studied for an MBA degree in NYC at Columbia University with the intent of returning in 18 months, equipped with credentials and the hope of myriad job opportunities in order to support the household. The title gives us a clue to the film's focus - the two young girls - whose resilience and humor give them the spunk and fortitude to cope with their father's mental illness with all the pain, humiliation and affectionately tender gifts he imparts in the process of eccentric parenting.
The impact of psychotic behavior can be devastating not only to the person who is suffering, but to those associated with him/her; the tentacles of delusion are piercing, powerfully far- reaching and intensely exhausting. Mark Ruffalo as Cameron (Cam) Stuart - the father
gives a substantive performance of a man who is in a hyper state of
irrationality - speaking fast, loud, and so self-centered that he is unaware of the impact of his bizarre behavior on those around him. Since this film is based on a "true" story, I accepted the notion that his wife Maggie, played by Zoe Saldana - a beautiful presence - after consulting Cameron's psychiatrist - allows her daughters to be in the care of someone who is so on the edge of falling off the thin, taut line of sanity.
The children, Amelia ( a feisty performance by Director Forbes' daughter Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith ( Ashley Aufderheide - I loved every scene she was in) become their father's keeper/caretaker and lifeline to the world; children who have the ability and sensitivity to decipher social cues, exhibiting a maturity and awareness of reality that their Dad rebuffs and repudiates. We never forget that these are just kids - often frightened, but brave and authentic; chiding, scolding and yelling in their attempt at guarding the guardian.
There are tender and humorous moments; passionate and inventive interactions; the relationship between a vulnerably fragile man who can be inspiring, playful and crazily innovative stimulating his offspring with a zany humor and iconoclastic outlook on negotiating the boundaries of life's barricades. As a stay-at-home father (at a time when that expression did not even exist) questions concerning the male ego and role reversal - the tedious and difficult job of up-keeping a home and allusions to burgeoning Feminism - female desire to freely participate in the workplace - are explored. On the other hand, Identity issues are not scrutinized with the same profundity. The siblings are a product of a bi-racial couple; when the older child who looks "white" questions whether she should be considered "black" because her mother is African American, the answer is a resounding YES and resolved with alacrity without delving into the complexity of the subject.
INFINITELY POLAR BEAR is an affective and heartrending experience about coping and living with bi-polar disorder; interspersed with lighthearted moments of intimacy, creative focus. and kindness. I lost a family member to mental illness so this movie was particularly penetrating; witnessing the struggle with demons battling for command over logic and reason will never be expunged from my heart; this film grazed that deeply entrenched grief.
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