” No! I’m the goddamn servant! All I do is cook for you and drive you around and tend to your every need……you treat me like a goddamn maid” Cameron argues back to his two daughters on one Boston evening. We watch Cameron sidelined by his own family because of his mental health and this film’s focuses in on how he has to combat that in a 1970s world that says no to him.
Cameron suffers from bipolar mood disorder which was also known as manic depression back in its day. Bipolar sufferers show symptoms such as
- feeling overly happy or “high” for long periods of time
- having a decreased need for sleep
- talking very fast, often with racing thoughts
- feeling extremely restless or impulsive
- becoming easily distracted
- having overconfidence in your abilities
- engaging in risky behaviour, such as having impulsive sex, gambling with life savings, or going on big spending sprees.
Director/writer Maya Forbes’s screenplay allows an outsider to see all of those symptoms in lead protagonist Cameron. In the first twenty minutes of the film we understand very clearly why his wife Maggie chooses full time study to secure the family out of poverty in the future. This choice leaves Cameron having to step up to the plate and take on maternal responsibility for his children. His daughters resent him because he is different. He has no real friends, he means well but like his daughter Amelia says to him ” People stay away from you”. He doesn’t see that, but his kids at times have to be more adult and remind Cameron to play father.
Watching Ruffalo’s performance in his character’s manic states are believable, I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with him. Cameron is a character that is up and down, takes lithium, drinks, smokes, is high and low, and watching the film it educates you that is exactly what bipolar does to a person. Zoe Salda plays Maggie convincingly because she is torn between wanting to strive for success at college or listen to feelings of doubt about staying back to look after the family.
Given the subject matter of bipolar disorder, as a family drama we understand cliches will be used in the film’s script and they’re used for some effect. Other films that deal with bipolar like Silver Linings Playbook was more popular at the box office but the point of difference between both films is Infinitely Polar Bear shows bipolar individually to a character where Silver Linings Playbook chooses to show it as just another mental health issue a character needs to get over. Watch Ruffalo as Cameron in this film for a fresh perspective on this disorder.
Mark Ruffalo as Cameron
Zoe Saldana as Maggie
Imogene Wolodarsky as Amelia
Ashley Aufderheide as Faith