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On Your Radar: Film Review Infinitely Polar Bear
by Karen Pecota

Film written and directed by Maya Forbes

True life events create the best stories. Life experiences. The tales told by brave individuals who are able to share personal downfalls and triumphs. These types of stories are our best teachers--we learn about life and we learn from others.

Filmmaker, Maya Forbes, got her start writing for the school news, The Harvard Lampoon, and her play, The Nestling, was featured in New York's The Young Playwright's Festival during her freshman year at Harvard. Years later as a skilled writer in Hollywood--film and television--she embarks on a very personal project.

The past fifteen years has given her entrance into the world of storytelling viewed by millions. Grateful for her literary journey thus far, her experience failed to give her a chance to write what she loves best-personal, idiosyncratic stories about families. Forbes favorites are personal stories that connect us to each other and to our humanity.

In 2007, Forbes attempts to complete a script about her childhood. Not knowing the outcome of her project nor if she has the nerve to finish such a personal memoir, Forbes' film Infinitely Polar Bear comes to fruition in 2013.

Infinitely Polar Bear is personal. It's Forbes' story. One she knows well. It's all about the effects of mental illness and how one particular family embraces the debilitating disease. It's funny, sad, authentic and warm.

At the age of six, Forbes' world fell apart. Her father suffered a series of manic breakdowns. The irregularity of his behavior was warring as his symptoms worsened. The realities of their situation were ignored in the beginning. At the time her father could no longer hold down his job, reality hit hard. No job, no money to make ends meet. Forbes' mother could not find work to support the family. Unfortunately, reaching out to family was a dead end deal. Forbes' father's family, among society’s local aristocrats, had bizarre rules for assisting loved ones. Asking for help was not kosher. Asking for money was taboo.

Desperate, Forbes' mother needed to find a solution for their dire situation. Conscientious and concerned for her children to receive a good education, Forbes' mother succumbs to unlikely measures in order to save her family. She enrolls in Columbia Business School. Scared, apprehensive and out of choices, she heads off to school in another state. She leaves her two daughters, Maya and China, behind to be cared-for by their manic-depressive father during the week. On the weekends mother was back to help. One might question who was the crazy parent. But for the Forbes family it didn't matter. They were in survival mode.

Maya and her sister, China, were mad and ashamed of how they lived during this time. The film Infinitely Polar Bear is the story of their difficult journey. It's a remarkable version of family. Forbes says, "It's a story of families in our world who must choose to survive, and often thrive, in the most unconventional ways."

Taking the advice of her mother to heart was how Forbes could embrace her story, write a compelling screenplay and document it as a feature film. Forbes grew up with these life encouraging words often heard from her mother's lips, "Take creative risks; Don't be afraid of being the boss; Be bold; and remember, You can only truly fail by not trying."

Forbes desired to create a film about human warmth. It is a topic important to her. She explains, "I wanted to see a humane film about the effects of mental illness on a family." She adds, "I wanted to see resilient children." And, continues, "I wanted to see a movie about love and the hard choices people have to make every day."

Forbes could visualize so clearly her story on the written page of how it was supposed to look, sound and feel. Her clear vision to share Infinitely Polar Bear was the reason only she could be the perfect candidate for the director of the film. Forbes was scared but the idea of chickening out was more daunting. Recalling the advice from mom, Forbes used her words to propel the project to completion. It was all the encouragement she needed.

Forbes' film is one of the most endearing stories told on film--warm, authentic, funny and heartbreaking. A testament of grace and love unconditionally. An embrace of family unconventionally.

Short Synopsis:

Cam (Mark Ruffalo) and Maggie (Zoe Saldana) Stuart along with their two spirited daughters, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) take one day at a time to cope with Cam's manic depression. Devastated with Cam's recent manic breakdown and the financial strain he has put on the family, Maggie must intervene to save her family.

Columbia Business School in New York offers an eighteen month MBA program at which Maggie applies and is accepted. Cam's lack of responsibility to care for his family in a traditional sense throws him deeper in the depths of despair until Maggie throws him a life-line. She asks him to be the primary caregiver for the girls during the week, while she is away at school with the understanding she is home every weekend for the caregiver duty.

Overwhelmed with their new parental roles, Cam and Maggie adapt to the change. Their daughters have a different take on the transition. Amelia and Faith are mad and embarrassed with their new life especially the shock of caregiving they have to take on with Cam. These attitudes and feelings force mom and dad to find alternative solutions to help Amelia and Faith appropriately adjust to their world that's turned upside down.