Review by See Change Ambassador Gormla Hughes:
“God damn it you’re so mean. I’m not your servant” (Faith Stuart, daughter)
Infinitely Polar Bear was independently made. Written and directed by Maya Forbes. A film based on her own father who lived with a Bipolar diagnosis until his death in 1998 and who was the primary care giver of Maya and her sister.
Mark Ruffalo (Cameron) plays her father. And Imogene Wolodarsky, Forbes own daughter plays Forbes fictionalised self (Amelia), Zoe Saldana, her mother and Ashley Aufderheide (Faith), her sister.
The acting is absolutely award winningly excellent.
If I only had one sentence to describe it. The film feels like a warm toasty blanket.
Forbes made a conscious decision to lean towards the warmth and supportiveness of her family life over the harrowing [which is mostly implied] without hiding or romanticising her father’s condition. It was funny, heart breaking and for me, demonstrated how much we, as a society under-estimate children’s ability and resilience.
Most importantly, the impact of being supported. The difference it makes to one human being’s life when they have support. Emotional support. Non-judgemental support.
“Tell them your father is a manic depressive or bipolar – whatever they’re calling it these days – but don’t not have friends because of me” (Cameron Stuart, father)
My only criticism of the film would be [as someone who has known the `paralysis of medication], is that it was easy for me to quickly identify when they visited him in a psychiatric ward that his behaviour was medication based, not his diagnosis. In a world that is mighty quick to judge, it would disappoint if anyone honed in on that piece.
Overall the film is peppered with music, laughter and little gems of knowledge. Like the impact [and detriment] of noise when you are in episode. That there is an inextricable connection between creativity and mental health.
The biggest lesson I took from this gorgeous film is:
Slip into yourself and be comfortable with it.
Review by See Change Ambassador Rick Rossiter:
With First Fortnight kicking off for their annual Arts & Mental Health Themed Events in January 2017 and within mind their theme being “Dignity” it is fitting that this year’s film showcase is that of 2014’s Infinitely Polar Bear Directed by Maya Forbes who based the events of this film on her own childhood in Cambridge, Mass. Starring Mark Ruffalo & Zoe Saldana as his wife, along with two wonderfully talented child actors Imogene Wolodarsky portraying the eldest child & Ashley Aufderheide the younger.
First and foremost this is a family movie, albeit a more mature and engaging one splitting off in so many directs. The first one of course is that of the protagonist played by Mark Ruffalo and his existence and experiences with having Bipolar Disorder, the second is that of his relationship with his wife and thirdly and most importantly is the relationship with his two daughters as they view their lives and life’s events while having a father with a mental health difficulty. At the best of times, he is like a magical being that unveils the universe to them in strange and often humorous way. Then there are the worst of times: turbulent and scary moments that leave them confused, fearful and even embarrassed about their father. From Hospital visits to meeting strangers with their father, these girls endured it all.
Mark’s performance is engaging and in no way patronising to the audience, he brings in all the aspects of someone with Bipolar on an even key. I myself have been battling Bipolar for over 30 years and the parallels in his life and my own are numerous, it’s like looking back on old family films and seeing who you once were.
The entire family unit is on full display and the director plays on each character’s strengths while not hiding their weaknesses in the slightest. Each character had their roles to play and each came with their own individuals’ views and insights that made moments throughout this film even more significant and meaningful.
It is hard to describe the journey this film takes you on without revealing too much of the plot, so I won’t. All I can say is that this film was a wonderful experience. For a person with Bipolar it brought home memories and likenesses that were both funny and frightening in their own rights. For a viewer that lives or knows of a person with the disorder, they too will find familiarity. Finally, for those that have no previous experience or knowledge of this often misunderstood mental health disorder, there will come an understanding and educating point of view and quite possibly a new formed empathy.
Truly, the only fall-back that I had with this film was leaving it behind. I wanted more; I wanted the journey to continue and to see it all play out. Sadly, with many great events in life there is always an ending to them. This film was infinitely wonderful and highly recommended – Rick Rossiter