In the late 1970s, in Boston, the bipolar Cameron "Cam" Stuart lives with his 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 program to improve her income and she is accepted by 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's education. Will the scheme work?Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Based on Maya Forbes' childhood with her sister. Her 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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Living with a bipolar father proves difficult for two young girls when their mother has to move away to study in this comedy-drama blend set in the 1970s. The title comes from the youngest daughter misnaming her father's condition as "polar bear" - thematically relevant as the overall film is about the two girls learning to accept their father's behaviour beyond their own preconceptions, appreciating what he does do well. From such a description, the film might sound overly sweet, and in a way it is, only ever seeming to skim the surface, focusing only on how embarrassed the girls are by their father's inability to integrate into society. There are a couple of moments in which the girls genuinely seem afraid of what their father might do, but the film never tugs at the full experience of living with someone with mental issues; as others have said, Mark Ruffalo comes off as more an everyday eccentric than a manic depressive. That said, Ruffalo's performance is the film's best asset, frequently communicating a genuine interest to bond with his daughters and care for them in small, subtle ways. His facial expressions and movements convey more than his dialogue and it is easy to feel for his frustration at not being able to be everything that his daughters want. It is much harder to reconcile the film's blanket negative attitude to the US public school system throughout, but it does act as an acceptable symbol of all that the girls' parents are worried about, and the film does offer an acute portrait of parents doing what they can for their offspring, even if it falls short in other areas.
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