Parents' Guide to

Infinitely Polar Bear

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Heartfelt drama about family affected by mental illness.

Movie R 2015 90 minutes
Infinitely Polar Bear Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 14+

a solid introduction into bipolar parenting

A bit lightweight considering the emphasis on bipolar parenting. The film cannot get out of being categorized as a sweet affair with heavy doses of rom-com, poor but proud, we don't have money but we have love and numerous other tried and true tropes. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this film except that it appears that the main protagonist is Ruffalo's character and it feels like that is the character we ultimately know the least about even by the end of the film, which contributes to feeling like this film is lightweight in its approach to Ruffalo's character afflictions.
age 12+

Brilliant performances, a film about love in difficult circumstances.

This film is so well-written, beautifully acted and directed. I watched it first, then allowed my kids to see it, as I thought the R rating (in Australia at least) was misleading. Yes, the dad drinks, chain smokes and swears, but I explained it in the context of his illness and the era (70s), and his occasional anger in the context of the situation. He is given a monumental challenge, to care for his children alone and he does so in his eccentric and chaotic way. Parenting is hard for anyone, but with his illness and their poverty, it's unfathomably more challenging. These are things that kids can know about, and families can also talk about the concept of the "black sheep" in families, who can be ostracized because they are different or embarrassing or badly behaved. It's also very funny, and days later, my 10 and 13 year old are still bringing up scenes they liked. If your kids never hear swearing or are really shocked by swearing, drinking and smoking, then you might have to wait until they are older, but my kids understood the context of these elements, and loved the warm, loving, funny human story. They also loved seeing such brilliant child actors. Mark Rufalo is superb.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (1):

It's the kids who give the movie its heart: There's not a false note in their performances, and their simultaneous affection for and frustration with their father seems genuine and moving. Ruffalo steeps Cameron in deep compassion, allowing his struggle with parenthood to be at the film's center, rather than concentrating on just the bipolar disorder that overwhelms the character. In doing so, the actor helps to tell the story of any father or mother who shoulders the burdens of single parenthood -- Cam is for all intents and purposes a single dad for much of the time chronicled in the film -- and does so without judgment.

Ditto Saldana when it comes to portraying Maggie's attempts to forge a new path at first dictated by necessity -- her family needs her to earn money to survive -- but later driven by her own search for an identity beyond wife and mother. Infinitely Polar Bear isn't without issues: The storytelling is disjointed at times, and Cam's family background is more a sketch than a detailed rendering. But on the strength of its acting, it's worth a watch.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: June 19, 2015
  • On DVD or streaming: January 5, 2016
  • Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana
  • Director: Maya Forbes
  • Inclusion Information: Black actors, Latinx actors
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 90 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: language
  • Last updated: April 1, 2022

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