In any family, on any given day, it can be difficult for parents to balance between work, raising children and maintaining strong relationships. What happens when a parent is afflicted with a mental disorder? Director Maya Forbes shares her own story as a child growing up in the late '70s with a manic-depressive father and a mother who had great aspirations for her children.
Amelia was only 6-years-old when her father Cameron's mental breakdowns caused her parents to separate. Living with her mother Maggie and younger sister Faith, they still regularly visited Cameron at the mental hospital in Boston. Cameron's wealthy family did not offer any financial assistance and Maggie had a tough time trying to make ends meet. She decided to go back to university and was offered a scholarship by Columbia University in New York.
Desperate but focused to provide her daughters with the best opportunities that she could, Maggie asked Cameron to look after the girls and moved to New York. No one could have guessed what Maggie's vision would entail, not even herself. Cameron, although a wild card, believed the daily routine would help him and began looking after Amelia, now 10, and Faith.
The school girls and Cameron struggled at doing the simplest things such as washing the dishes, when Cameron would go through one of his episodes; to having invaluable experiences of mushroom-hunting, dress-making and many fun but incomplete projects. In one day, it could be as extreme as Cameron's mental condition, the pendulum swinging as far and as unpredictable from the centre.
As Forbes' first writer-director film, Infinitely Polar Bear did exactly what she had set out to achieve: a film of fun, sadness and warmth. Mark Ruffalo is the perfect candidate as the loveable "polar bear" father; ZoŽ Saldana demonstrates strength and conviction as a minority like no other; Forbes' own daughter Imogene Wolodarsky is as fierce as her mother; and Ashley Aufderheide exhibits composure beyond her age.
This film is not only about Forbes' personal experience, it is about her parents who, despite the challenging circumstances, were determined to maintain the family unit. It is about love and the realities which sometime cloud that basic yet powerful connection. Forbes lived through the storm that seemed to offer no way out, however she surprises with clarity that was always present but unseen.
Infinitely Polar Bear opens in cinemas on 26 March 2015.