Infinitely Polar Bear on family, love & bi-polar disorder
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Jul 01, 2015 | 8179 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The film starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana explores the real story of family and mental illness.
The film starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana explores the real story of family and mental illness.
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Mark Ruffalo stars as a bi-polar father who struggles to take care of his two girls. 
Photo by Claire Folger, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Mark Ruffalo stars as a bi-polar father who struggles to take care of his two girls. Photo by Claire Folger, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
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On July 3, Kew Gardens Cinemas at 81-05 Lefferts Boulevard will screen the heavily-praised indie film ‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana. The film centers around the effects of mental illness on a family but still manages to show the power of love and how parents and children can save one another in surprising ways.

Ruffalo’s character, Cam, suffers from manic depression which leaves him isolated from his family after his latest breakdown. But soon he finds himself not only back into their lives, but he’s also slated to become their only caregiver. Amelia and Faith, the two girls played by Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide, struggle to live with their father as he battles himself and emasculation as well as learns to handle responsibilities and routines that have escaped him.

Their mother, Maggie, is played by Saldana. Maggie leaves her children with Cam after getting accepted to a Master’s program at Columbia University. To say that the situation wasn’t easy for any of them would be an understatement. The girls struggle with their adolescence, but their relationship with their father is increasingly tensed, especially during one of his episodes like when he takes them trespassing into a home that belonged to his family during a different era.

The film doesn’t sugar coat what it’s like to live with a mental disease and much of the credit goes towards the director, Maya Forbes. Forbes, in her first film as a writer and director, revealed in a statement that she created the film in an effort to shed light on how she grew up. Although she is now married to Wally Wolodarsky and has three children of her own, including Imogene, life was rough for Forbes in Cambridge, MA.

Her father underwent a series of manic breakdowns which led to her parents’ separation. Her mother also attended the Columbia School of Business in hopes to earn a better wage and provide more for her family besides a cramped apartment in the city.

“My sister and I were sad and furious and ashamed of the way we lived,” she said. “And yet, in the end, it worked. We became our own version of a family, just like so many families out there who survive, and even thrive, in unconventional ways.”

Forbes always had an interest in personal, idiosyncratic films about families. However, she worked in Hollywood for 15 years writing everything but what fueled her passion. She worked on shows such as “The Larry Sanders Show” on HBO and films like the animated “Monsters vs. Aliens,” but her heart wanted to tell a story about a real family that showed off warmth and authenticity.

“I wanted to see a humane film about the effects of mental illness on a family and I wanted to see real, resilient children,” she said. “I wanted to see a movie about love and the hard choices people have to make every day.”

She started writing the script to ‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ in 2007. After writing the script, the vision formed effortlessly together so much so that Forbes decided to direct the film herself. If she had given someone else the directorial role, it would of left her “haunted” by what-ifs regarding her own directing potential.

“While the idea of directing the film scared me, the idea of chickening out scared me more,” Forbes said. “I have two daughters and I am always telling them the same things my mom told me: take creative risks; don’t be afraid of being the boss; be bold; you can only truly fail by not trying.”

The film debuted well in 2014, picking up traction at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014. The first screening will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 3.
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