Nominations have been handed out and we're fresh in the swing of Oscar season. While many of us are using these precious moments to reflect on the past cinematic year, ironically, Sundance premiered one of the finest performances we may witness in 2014. Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear has pounced onto the scene, sitting amongst the best films I've seen at the festival.
Cam (played by Mark Ruffalo) is a loving husband and father of two outspoken young girls, but Cam is also bipolar. When his temperamental breakdowns and inability to hold a job or function like an adult reach a tipping point, his wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) separates from him and demands he seek treatment in their hometown of Boston. After stints in a hospital and a halfway house where Cam slowly learns to assume responsibility, Maggie receives an offer to get her MBA at Colombia in New York and improve their family's insufficient financial situation. What does that mean for Cam? He must prove he can handle his manic depression and play "Mr. Mom" to his two young girls all while his wife is away at school for 18 long months.
Infinitely Polar Bear shows a family in ruins. Clearly depicting the old adage that "sometimes love just ain't enough", the film wavers like the up-and-down mental state of Cam. When things are going well, the family thrives and bonds strongly together. But when times are tough, they crumble and wither into despair. Infinitely Polar Bearhits all the right keys and tackles this delicate issue with an earnest respect, one that isn't overly sentimental. While the script is strong and the direction is on point, it's obvious to say that the film works so well thanks in large part to another brilliant turn from Mark Ruffalo. The actor gives a realistic first-hand look into living with this illness and the horrors it can create in the family dynamic. With lunacy and tenderness blended perfectly together in his chain-smoking character, Ruffalo shows a remarkably complex individual that's absolutely endearing. His performance alone makes Infinitely Polar Bear a great movie-watching experience, but there's still plenty of other elevating factors to the film.
More so than its dramatics, Maya Forbes' phenomenal feature hammers home the comedy. Ruffalo and the pair of gifted young female actors who portray his daughters all assist in keeping the humor flowing. The gap between laughs is always short and the emotional storylines dispersed throughout are merely icing on the cake. Infinitely Polar Bear opens your eyes and makes you see the world in a different light, one that seems difficult but magnificent all at the same time. You grow with Cam and his family, in a way that makes the journey fun-filled and life affirming.
Watching Ruffalo at the top of his game makes me even more excited for another 2014 release of his, Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher. But without getting ahead of myself, there's greatness right here scattered throughout Infinitely Polar Bear. Ruffalo is unforgettable and his film is a fantastic ride from start to finish. Make a note, because this is one movie you won't want to miss when it receives a general release.